By Chesney Hearst, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The state of Rio de Janeiro shows a ten percent decrease in reported cases of the dengue fever during the period of January 1st to February 16th, compared to last year. At the same time recently released data showed the number of reported dengue fever cases throughout Brazil nearly tripled.
During the six week period in 2013, 14,838 suspected cases of dengue fever and no deaths were reported, while 16,398 suspected cases were reported during the same time period in 2012 with one death in Rio de Janeiro state.
Transmitted by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, dengue fever is an infectious tropical disease that usually lasts for five to six days.
There are four strains of the virus -DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3 and DENV-4. All strains produce the same symptoms which include; high fever, joint and muscle aches, headaches, nausea and vomiting.
“It’s awful,” Recreio resident Leonardo Lima told The Rio Times. One of the 14,838 reported cases, Lima contracted the disease earlier this month. “I felt kind of weird, dizzy. It was as if I was not in my body. I was having chills, my fever went up to 41. I had pain in the knees, ankles and kidney. [...] That was a Friday night, the worst night. By Wednesday I was 95 percent cured,” said Lima.
It was then that Lima took a blood test to confirm that he had in fact suffered from dengue fever. His father, Doctor José de Ribamar dos Santos, who currently practices at a private clinic stated that, “a blood test should be taken exactly five days after the first symptoms” but that “people should look for a doctor as soon as they think that they might have dengue.”
In 2011, the State of Rio de Janeiro instituted a training program to help doctors and nurses statewide learn the proper protocols for diagnosing and treatment of dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever, which can cause bleeding and low levels of blood platelets and can result in death.
Training began in January this year with a goal of more than 700 new health care professionals statewide trained by March. Since its inception, roughly 7,000 professionals have participated in the training program.
However, healthcare professionals can only help patients once the disease has been contracted. Currently, there is no available vaccine for dengue fever. Taking preventative measures is the only way to combat the spread of the disease.
The State Department of Health has enacted a campaign entitled Dez Minutos Contra a Dengue (Ten Minutes Against Dengue) which includes a guideline for simple ten minutes actions that can be done each week to help prevent the spread of the disease.
The actions include, covering pools and water-tanks, overturning outside containers and buckets and monitoring areas like abandoned tires for pools of standing water because the Aedes aegypti mosquitos are known to breed in standing water. The full checklist is available here.
Residents and tourists are also advised to wear insect repellent and stay in homes, hotels and hostels that are properly screened or air-conditioned and that have been routinely fumigated for mosquitoes.