- RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian authorities said Wednesday they were struggling
to curb an outbreak of dengue fever that was at emergency levels in the
southeast and racing through the beach resort city of Rio de Janeiro. Rio
residents were reporting new cases of the mosquito-borne viral infection
hourly, with a 10 percent daily increase in the total number of sick, officials
- ``We are living in an epidemic here,''
Rio de Janeiro epidemiology consultant Meri Baram told Reuters. ``It's
a natural result of the conditions of the city.'' Dengue, which is spread
by mosquitoes breeding in stagnant pools of water, can cause mild to high
fever, aches and, in rare cases, deadly internal bleeding.
- Baram said general ignorance about dengue
and slow national response to the outbreak had hampered efforts to control
it. Some 40 percent of Rio residents had turned away city health inspectors
going from house to house to check for hazardous practices, she said.
- The stocks of insecticides needed to
spray houses and kill the adult mosquitoes had also been held up, but central
government officials said there were now plenty of supplies. Brazil's new
Health Minister Jose Serra, who took office Tuesday, raced to Rio Wednesday
and said he was mounting an all-out effort to quell the disease.
- ``It's now crucial that we coordinate
all efforts to fight this disease,'' Serra told reporters after meeting
Rio de Janeiro state and local health officials. He said the central government
was providing 11.4 million reais (about $10 million) to the state of Rio
de Janeiro and would bring in army troops to help emergency efforts to
kill the mosquitoes.
- ``We will provide every resource that
is needed,'' Serra said. ``The state has an essential role, but it's very
important that the population eliminate piles of garbage, plant pots, and
other places that collect water that allow it to grow.'' Officials from
the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said they were keeping a close
watch on the most recent outbreak of dengue, which had been epidemic in
Brazil in 1986 after having been virtually eradicated earlier this century.
``We are definitely concerned,'' Roberto Chuit, PAHO regional adviser on
communicable disease, said in a telephone interview. ``The mosquitoes are
growing up and people are getting sick.''
- PAHO said the dengue-carrying Aedes Aegypti
mosquito had reinfested some urban areas across Latin America and the Caribbean
after surveillance programs were relaxed, and were now nearly impossible
to rid again.
- ``There are now many more houses, there
is more travel between urban centers within and among countries, and there
are more disposable containers per household than ever before,'' PAHO said
in a report. Officials in the state of Rio de Janeiro were becoming increasingly
alarmed by the growing number of potentially fatal cases being reported,
104 out of a total 5,000 in the first three months this year.
- There were 15 cases of hemorrhaging dengue
out of 1,700 reported in the whole of 1997. ``While the number of cases
in Rio does not seem that great, it's important because it's a big city
and it has more of the hemorrhage cases,'' Rosangela Bello, Rio de Janeiro
state health secretary, told reporters.
- The largest outbreak of the milder form
of dengue was in the Minas Gerais state with some 30,000 cases, followed
by Espirito Santo with 25,000 victims to date in 1998.