Dengue fever and the World Cup

“Fans at next year’s World Cup in Brazil may be exposed to a nasty and incurable tropical disease.” was a headline in the British science weekly journal Nature, and was also featured November 28 on BBC Health. 

The Nature article, written by Professor Simon Hay of Oxford University, notes that the most significant risk will be in three of the twelve host cities: Fortaleza, Natal, and Recife. 

Dengue is, like yellow fever, only spread by infected mosquitos, and fortunately cannot be transmitted directly from one person to another. But unlike yellow fever, there is no effective vaccine for dengue, so the only way to prevent the disease is to protect oneself from mosquito bites, and to support public health measures that work to decrease the mosquito population.

This disease is unknown in Britain but since 2010, some cases have been reported in Europe—and perhaps this explains some of the British concern.  But according to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 40% of the world’s population is at risk of this disease, so dengue is a worldwide proble

The WHO is especially concerned about dengue as the incidence has increased dramatically over the past few decades, and besides not having any vaccine, there is no effective treatment available beyond supportive care. Antibiotics or anti-viral agents do not work, but some people require hospitalization, even intensive care.

The symptoms of dengue typically begin 4 to 10 days after the bite of an infected mosquito, and may include high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, nausea and vomiting, muscle and joint pains, and a rash. Most people recover within a few days, but rarely the disease can progress to a more severe form, dengue hemorrhagic fever, marked by skin and internal organ bleeding.

To prevent dengue:

  • Select accommodations with screened windows and doors and air conditioning;
  • Use insecticides indoors;
  • Wear clothing that covers the arms and legs, especially during early morning and late afternoon, when the chance of being bitten is greatest;
  • Apply insect repellent to clothing and exposed skin.

The Nature article recommends that “Brazilian authorities should implement aggressive vector (mosquito) control in April and May, particularly around the northern stadiums, to decrease the number of dengue-transmitting mosquitoes.”

Fortunately though we won’t have to worry about dengue forever. Since dengue is so widespread with a rapidly increasing incidence, there is an intense effort to develop a vaccine, and likely one will be available within the next several years.

But for the time being, don’t forget to take measures to protect ourselves and our children, and support public health measures of mosquito control. On an individual level, we can each make a contribution by eliminating any collections of standing water where mosquitos breed.

Should you wish to find a doctor, of any specialty, anywhere in Brazil, use our main website:

See also in ProcuraMed:

Good news about yellow fever

Soccer ball heading may lead to brain damage 




Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)