1. Dengue fever is one of the biggest threats to the health of those living in Brazil and of those visiting the country as well.
Dengue hemorrhagic fever can cause death.
2. Dengue fever is spread throughout most of Brazil.
Contrary to what happens with yellow fever, dengue is present both in rural and urban areas. In many places it occurs in the form of epidemics. From January to November 2007 there were 536,519 cases of dengue fever in Brazil. In the entire 2007, there were 1,541 cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever, with 158 deaths. The fight against dengue fever is hindered by precarious hygiene and sanitation standards in most of the country, the insufficient resources made available by the authorities at all levels, and the attitude of part of the population. According to a recent poll, 91% of the population know what needs to be done to erradicate the mosquito than transmits dengue; however, 55% do nothing about it as their neighbours do nothing either.
Google has an online tool that tracks the occurrence of dengue fever cases in Brazil. It can be checked at Dengue trends: Brazil.
3. Cases of dengue fever increase during the rainy season.
The mosquito that transmits dengue fever becomes active with rain and high temperatures. 86% of the cases registered in 2007 occurred between January and May.
4. So far, there is no vaccine against dengue fever.
Primary prevention of dengue fever consists on avoid being bitten by the mosquito that transmits the disease. Cover your exposed skin and your clothes with repellent.
5. Dengue is transmitted through the bite of the Aedes Agypti mosquito.
The fight against dengue is synonym whth the fight against the mosquito. The adult mosquito is middle-sized, dark with white markings on the sides and the upper part of the thorax. It has white rings on its legs. It is found on houses and their vicinities. It needs clean water to deposit its eggs.
6. Dengue fever is not transmitted between humans.
7. There are four serotypes of dengue fever: 1, 2, 3, 4. Type 4 is the only one not found in Brazil.
Update: type 4 has finally made it to Brazil.
8. Two forms of dengue fever are found in Brazil: classic dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever.
On average, symptom manifest between 5 and 6 days after the infection.
The main symptoms of classic dengue fever are high fever (39° to 40°C); severe headache; rashes (bright red on the lower limbs and the chest); muscle and joint pains; nausea and vomiting.
Initially, the symptoms of dengue hemorrhagic fever are the same as those of classic dengue. After the third or fourth day, hemorrhages appear. It the disease is not treated inmmediately, it can lead to the death of the patient.
If symptoms appears, immediate medical care is need – do go to a hospital or health centre.
9. There is no specific treatment for classic dengue fever.
Aspirins should be avoided as they may favour the appearance of hemorrhages. It is important that the patient prevents dehydration through increased oral fluid intake.
Dengue hemorrhagic fever should be trated in hospital.
10. Dengue fever can be caught more than once (although it will never be the same type). Those who have contracted dengue fever in the past should be extra careful as dengue hemorrhagic fever seems to develop almost exclusively on patients that had had classic dengue fever before.
Combata a Dengue. Website of the Brazilian Ministry of Health, in Portuguese only. Given the size of the problem and the fact that dengue fever does not discriminate between residents and visitors, one would have expected a more proactive attitude from Brazilian authorities when it came to informing tourists about the risks of dengue fever. I haven’t found any mention of dengue fever on the Brazil Tourism Portal, also belonging to the Brazilian government.
One wonders what are the reasons behind this silence and reaches the conclusion that the authorities want to avoid at all costs associating yet another negative issue to the image of a country already blemished by violence, precarious infrastructures and lack of tourist information. If a blogger with no financial support and the collaboration of a doctor can write a entry like the one you are reading now, why shouldn’t a government be able to do something similar?
The U.S. government’s CDC Dengue Fever Fact Sheet can be consulted for further information in English.
This entry has been entirely written with the medical supervision of dr. Gustavo R. Bonzón, to whom we are grateful for this co-operation. Any mistakes contained in the text are the sole responsibility of the blog.