The Heat Is Online

Rio Dengue Epidemic Gives Way to Malaria

Rio Dengue Epidemic Slows, but Malaria Cases Jump

Reuters News Service, April 25, 2002

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - An April drought looks to be slowing the advance of Rio de Janeiro's worst dengue epidemic on record, which has killed 56 people this year, but the Brazilian state now faces a jump in malaria cases.

In the city of Rio, a tourist hot spot that has had the highest concentration of the disease in Brazil, only 2,684 cases have been registered in April from a height of 37,000 in March, the State Municipal Health Secretary said on Thursday.

Fatal cases across Rio state rose from 47 at the end of March, but none of them were in the city where more than one-third of the state's 14 million people live.

Dengue -- carried by the aedes aegypti mosquito which lays its eggs in still water -- causes flu-like symptoms including high fever, headaches, muscle and joint pain, lack of appetite and fatigue. There are no treatment drugs for the disease.

A person can only contract one of the four strains of the virus once and it is usually only contraction of several types that can be fatal. Brazil has registered three of the four strains of dengue.

Some 95,054 cases have been registered in Rio city since January 1, already almost 11 percent more than was registered in 1991, considered the worst year on record when 24 people died.

The January to April total could actually be closer to 149,000 as many cases have yet to enter the official register.

But as dengue cases fell, the number of malaria cases in the state has risen to 32 so far this year, with 28 of them imported from outside the state and four cases originating in a seaside colonial town of Parati that is popular with tourists.

There were only 68 registered cases in Rio state in both 2001 and 2000 and all of them were imported.

Malaria is rare Rio with most cases imported from abroad or from jungle areas in the north of Latin America's biggest country where hundreds of thousands of cases are reported every year.

Malaria, which is transmitted by the female anopheles mosquito, destroys red blood cells causing prolonged fevers, vomiting, and delirium. Some strains can be fatal.

Health experts said the drop in cases of dengue was expected due to the dry weather and a eradication campaign involving military, state personnel, and volunteers.