TOPICS > Health

Brazil confronts dengue fever fears amid World Cup frenzy

June 14, 2014 at 2:43 PM EST
Teams representing 31 countries have descended on Brazil hoping to bring home the World Cup trophy. But amid the excitement, scientists and health specialists are concerned that tourists and players may bring something else home with them: dengue fever, a disease with no immunization and no cure that has long been a problem in Brazil.
LISTEN SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Teams representing 31 countries have descended on Brazil this week all hoping to bring home the World Cup trophy.

500,000 people are expected to travel here from all over the globe to attend the tournament, and scientists and health specialists are worried that tourists and players may bring something else home with them: dengue fever.

Dengue fever is a centuries-old disease with no immunization and no cure. It’s transmitted from the bite of the aedes aegypti mosquito and leads to symptoms like: severe headaches, muscle and joint pain, and vomiting. If not treated, it can lead to death.

DR. STEPHEN MORSE: Visitors from non-tropical regions may very well find that they are going to get dengue when they are out there in the stadium. And many people probably will because it is such a large mass gathering.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Infectious disease specialist Dr. Stephen Morse says that Dengue fever has long been a problem in Brazil – with an average of 1 million cases each year, more than any other country. And just as the World Cup was about to start, an outbreak was reported in the city of Campinas, the city where Portugal and Nigeria’s teams are based.

DR. STEPHEN MORSE: They have reported 32,000 cases in an outbreak and its still on going. So that is the largest outbreak that Brazil has recorded to date.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Hospitals in and around São Paulo, one of Brazil’s largest cities, have been overrun by almost 60,000 cases. Officials believe the spike is due to a heat wave earlier this year. City workers have been working furiously to kill mosquitoes using powerful pesticides.

LUCIO FREITAS-JUNIOR: The dengue situation in Campinas and in São Paulo, there is a concern right now. I would say for people that are coming to Brazil, they should be careful, for example they should bring with them sprays against the mosquitoes. Things like this helps a lot.

HARI SREENIVASAN: According to Morse, even if tourists do come back from Brazil infected, the dengue epidemic is unlikely to spread in the U.S., because the colder climates here make it hard for the mosquitoes to live and spread the disease.