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“Dengue Fever Epidemic Surges in Brazil During Tourist Season”

Dengue Fever Epidemic Surges in Brazil During Tourist Season

RIO DE JANEIRO – As Brazil’s tourist season reaches its peak, the country is grappling with a surge in dengue fever cases. Health workers are racing against time to contain the mosquito-borne illness, which has seen a significant increase compared to previous years. The city of Rio de Janeiro, famous for its Carnival festivities, recently declared a public health epidemic due to the unusually high number of dengue cases.

Efforts to combat the epidemic are underway nationwide, with state public health workers playing a crucial role. These workers are scouring various locations, including junkyards, in search of standing water where mosquitoes may have laid their eggs. The presence of mosquito larvae in these areas indicates a high risk of dengue transmission. Paulo Cesar Gomes, an entomologist, explains that such locations are considered “strategic points” due to the constant influx of items from different sources. He emphasizes the difficulty of preventing mosquito breeding in these areas.

The alarming rise in dengue cases prompted several states, including Rio de Janeiro, and the country’s capital to declare a public health emergency. Ethel Maciel, head of health surveillance at Brazil’s Health Ministry, reveals that January alone witnessed more cases than any other January in history. So far this year, Brazil has recorded a staggering 512,000 dengue cases nationwide, nearly quadruple the number from the same period last year. Among these cases, there have been 425 deaths under investigation, with 75 confirmed deaths. This is a significant increase compared to just over 1,000 deaths recorded throughout 2023.

Dengue fever is a viral infection transmitted through mosquito bites. The combination of frequent rains and high temperatures in Rio de Janeiro creates an ideal environment for mosquito breeding and the spread of the disease. While many infected individuals remain asymptomatic, dengue can cause symptoms such as high fever, headache, body aches, nausea, and a rash. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required, and the disease can be fatal.

Health workers like Paulo Cesar Gomes are equipped with masks and gloves as they meticulously search for mosquito breeding sites. In a junkyard, Gomes collects mosquito larvae found in standing water using a hand pipette. These larvae are then sent to a city laboratory for testing. If positive for dengue, the location is treated with a mosquito-killing product, and monitoring continues for several weeks.

According to Maciel, the warning signs of a possible epidemic emerged in September. Brazil’s leading research institute, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), projected that the country could experience as many as 4.2 million dengue cases this year, up from 1.6 million in 2023. Maciel attributes the surge to the excessive heat and intense rain, which may be linked to climate change or El Niño, a temporary warming of part of the Pacific Ocean that affects global weather patterns. Additionally, the circulation of four dengue virus serotypes simultaneously, including one not seen in 15 years, has contributed to the outbreak.

In Rio de Janeiro, over 80% of mosquito breeding sites are found in residential properties. Therefore, combating dengue requires efforts to raise awareness among residents and encourage them to eliminate potential breeding grounds. Mário Sérgio Ribeiro, a health surveillance official for Rio de Janeiro state, emphasizes the importance of starting prevention measures at home. To promote this message, state officials launched an initiative called “10 minutes that save lives,” urging residents to inspect their homes, offices, and places of worship for standing water.

Health workers and volunteers have been going door-to-door in Rio’s Tabajara neighborhood, a working-class area known as a favela, to spread awareness about dengue prevention. They distribute leaflets and inspect rooftops for containers holding rainwater, which serve as breeding sites for mosquitoes. Vilza da Costa, an elderly woman from the neighborhood, believes she contracted dengue and describes her symptoms as fever, itching, weakness, and severe pain. She highlights the prevalence of mosquitoes in the area.

During the recent Carnival festivities, health employees provided visitors with free mosquito repellent. A van adorned with a giant crossed-off mosquito and the words “Against Dengue Everyday” appeared at the parades, reaching millions of TV viewers. However, the impact of Carnival on the spread of dengue remains uncertain and will only be known in the coming weeks. Although dengue is not transmitted from person to person, increased tourism can contribute to the disease’s spread to previously unaffected areas.

As Brazil continues to battle this dengue epidemic, it remains unclear whether the number of cases has peaked or if the worst is yet to come. Ethel Maciel emphasizes that further observation is needed to determine the trajectory of the outbreak. Efforts to combat dengue must


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