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By Leo Byrne, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANERIO, BRAZIL – The ministry of health reported today that the number of dengue fever cases in the country was three times higher than during the same period last year. Although the number of serious cases and deaths decreased by 44 and 20 percent respectively, the total number of cases rose to 204,650 in the first seven weeks of the year.

Jarbas Barbosa speaks about dengue fever, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
The Secretary of Health Observation, Jarbas Barbosa speaks about dengue fever, photo by José Cruz/ABr.

The Secretary of Health Observation, Jarbas Barbosa attributed the increase to a different strain of the disease, known as DENV-4 which has been circulating Brazil since 2011. A higher than usual incidence of mosquitoes was also to blame.

“Every time we have a new strain in a place where it has never previously circulated, more people are susceptible. In 2013,[DENV-4] hit big cities and this has caused the increase in the number of cases,” Barbosa said.

The current outbreak of DENV-4 corresponds to 52.6 percent of the samples found in Brazil. However the Health Ministry has emphasized that the severity and symptoms of the illness are the same regardless of which strain of the virus is contracted.

The State of Mato Grosso do Sul had the largest number of cases; however Minas Gerais, Goiás, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Paraná, Mato Grosso and Espirito Santo together constituted 84.6 percent of reported cases in the first seven weeks of 2013. In Mato Grosso do Sul the incidence of the disease was an alarming 1,677.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

“The figures should serve to alert the states and municipalities. Local mayors should make plans of action with regards to people’s homes, whether [they increase] garbage collection or [organize the] cleaning of water tanks, we must act to prevent further deaths and serious cases,” Barbosa added.

The Minister of Health, Alexandre Padilha also urged caution. “We are at the beginning of the period of epidemic transmission, which lasts until May. It is a time of high alert,” he said in a statement.

Read more (in Portuguese).

* The Rio Times Daily Updates feature is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.

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