dengue

More good news in Brazil. Not. The outbreaks of dengue fever in Brazil have tripled this year, as a new strain appears and spreads.

According to the local newspaper, in the first seven weeks of 2013, there were 200,000 people infected, as opposed to 70,000 in the same time period last year. The southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul has been hardest hit, though according to the news screen in our elevator, there were 100,000 cases reported in nearby Minas Gerais, with 59 deaths.

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Dengue is a viral disease transmitted through the bite of an Aedes aegypti mosquito. This mosquito lives very close to people in built-up areas and thrives in stagnant water.

There are four known types of dengue fever. Once people are infected by one type, they become immune to that variation, but not to other strains.

Symptoms include sudden onset of high fever which can last from 3-7 days, severe headache, muscle and joint pain, eye pain. It is commonly known as “break bone fever.” Nausea and vomiting can also occur. In rare cases, the illness can progress into a more severe condition called Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (DHF), where severe haemorrhaging can occur, resulting in organ failure and death. There is no preventative vaccine for dengue.

The disease has spread as a result of rapid urbanization, especially where a lack of clean water and sanitation are a problem. Small pools of water have enabled the mosquito to reproduce quickly and in great numbers.

It has arrived here. At a recent event, a man arrived alone, saying his wife and son were home with dengue. He lives two blocks from us. When I asked how they were doing, he shrugged and said, “They’re sleeping. They’ll get over it. Nothing you can do.” A full recovery can take weeks.

The worst of the assault might be passed, as we’re out of the rainy season and the mosquitos will begin to die off. But there is a lot of standing water in the city, where the beasties breed.

Yet again, I am happy to be living on the 24th floor, where I’ve never seen a mosquito. But unless we stay hidden in our aerie, we’re at as great a risk as anyone else here. My greatest fear is for all of our friends with babies and little ones, who can’t tell that they’ve been bitten.

Welcome to the tropics.