By Patricia Maresch, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The number of reported cases of dengue fever in the State of Rio de Janeiro is going up, instead of decreasing. It prompted the government of Rio to organize the Day of Crusade Against Dengue during the first weekend of April. Some 5,000 volunteers, members of the Fire Brigade and government officials went door-to-door in 126 neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro.
They also performed inspections in the Baixada Fluminense (26), the Greater Rio area (24) and Rio’s interior (4) to inform people where the mosquitoes live. Mosquitoes carrying dengue viruses breed in stored, exposed water, even places as shallow as jars, discarded bottles, old tires and plant saucers.
Inspectors said to have eliminated more than 20,000 possible threats, with simple precautionary measures such as putting lids on water tanks and confiscating thousands of old car tires.
According to the latest figures from the Government of the State of Rio de Janeiro (March 30th) there have been 31,412 reported cases of dengue, including 23 fatalities. In the city of Rio seven people reportedly have died of dengue fever.
The city’s Health Department admits that Rio still faces the peak of the disease and numbers will only start to decline mid-April. In 2008, during the last major dengue epidemic, there were a little over 32,000 cases between January and March.
Private hospitals in Zona Sul (South zone) have experienced an increase in dengue cases as well. At the Copa D’Or hospital in Copacabana, more than 250 cases have been reported since the start of the outbreak.
Hakan Olsson, who works in Real Estate in Rio, brought his father there as a dengue patient and said the emergency unit at the Copa D’Or hospital was filled with patients; “Many of them told me they had dengue symptoms.”
Olson continued by warning, “The doctor at the Copa D’Or hospital told us that there is an outbreak going on in Copacabana and Ipanema.”
According to the Secretary of Health, no specific area of the city is facing an outbreak of dengue. The neighborhoods Irajá, Madureira, Pavuna and Acari, have recorded the most cases however, followed by Jacarepaguá, Barra da Tijuca and Recreio.
Olsson says he hasn’t seen any dengue inspectors in Copacabana for a while, but he will take extra safety measures. “I will be more careful and try to not let mosquitoes into my home, use insect repellent and will also be more alert if I start to feel ill.”
Being infected with dengue can cause flu-like symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, backache, joint pains, eye pain, nausea, vomiting and a rash. But it can also cause a more serious hemorrhagic form that causes internal and external bleeding and sudden death.
Dutch native Dorien Boxhoorn, living near the Lagoa in Ipanema, went to the hospital with symptoms of dengue as well. “At the hospital they said I had chicken pox, although I still have some joint pains.”
To her surprise she hasn’t seen any dengue prevention teams in Ipanema. “Except for warnings on TV and in the metro, I hardly notice that the city is combating dengue,” says Boxhoorn.