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Rapping Doc With A Reggae Beat Tells Jamaicans How To Fight Zika Virus

Jamaica's Ministry of Health released a reggae music video about how people can protect themselves against the Zika virus.
Jamaica's Ministry of Health released a reggae music video about how people can protect themselves against the Zika virus.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with quotes from an NPR interview with Dr. Michael Abrahams, the rapping OB-GYN.

Jamaica has had only one confirmed case of the Zika virus, brought in by a traveler — and the government wants to keep it that way.

Last month, the government advised women to delay plans to become pregnant, since the the virus has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly. And government fliers warn: "Be Aware, ZIKA IS HERE" and "ZIKA ALERT!!!"

Now the Jamaican Ministry of Health has come out with a musical public service announcement to make sure there's no chance of an outbreak: "We Nuh Want Zik V."

The reggae video features Dr. Michael Abrahams — an OB-GYN who does music and stand-up comedy on the side.

In the video, Abrahams acknowledges that "Zik V is not in the Caribbean territory" but reiterates, "we nuh want that virus." To keep it away, he encourages residents to get rid of stagnant water, where Zika-transmitting mosquitoes breed. He gives "a special shout-out to pregnant ladies" — encouraging them to use mosquito repellents and citronella candles to ward off bites.

Jamaica's health minister reached out to Abrahams and asked him to make the Zik V video after noticing a musical PSA about chikungunya that they doctor had created last year. "Growing up, I used to watch Saturday Night Live and Richard Pryor," Abrahams says. "So I really wanted to be a performer or a stand-up comedian."

He ended up becoming a doctor ("it was the more practical career choice," he says) but kept up the comedy. "And I liked making these kinds of songs, because I think you can engage patients better when you present something in a rhythmic or poetic format,"

His government-commissioned Zik V song is being broadcasted all over Jamaica on the radio, on TV and in cinemas. "I've been really surprised by all the international attention it's getting," Abrahams says.

Jamaicans are especially weary of Zika because they're just recovering from an outbreak of chikungunya in 2014. "When chikungunya came here we were told it was a mild illness, but many people got very sick," Abrahams says. "For older people and for people with other chronic diseases, it can cause severe pain."

Through his latest video is branded as an anti-Zika PSA, Abrahams says he hope people will take heed of his advice to be wary of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes — which also transmit dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

"If someone were to say to you. 'What's the most dangerous animal?' You might think about sharks or snakes," he says. "But mosquitoes are so much scarier!"

Editor's Note: This isn't the only great song written about a mosquito. In the 1970s, Nina Simone composed and recorded "Funkier Than A Mosquito's Tweeter."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.