Brazil: prevention is the key to dealing with the dengue fever outbreak

Published: 8 April 2008 0:00 CET

Manuel Esteban Rodríguez, in Panama City

Approximately 50,000 people have been affected by dengue fever, mainly in several municipalities in the state of Rio de Janeiro, and 67 have died from complications of the disease.

According to Brazilian Ministry of Health reports, the number of cases of dengue fever has overstretched the health care capacity of public hospitals. Government efforts to control the epidemic have fallen short, in spite of the fact that it has assigned 300 members of the military to the operation and provided three field hospitals and 130 rehydration points for sufferers. The government has even ordered and paid for the treatment of some patients in private health care facilities.

“Although we are currently in the grip of an epidemic and thousands of people have been affected, we should not forget that the only way to combat dengue fever is through prevention, with the implementation of control measures focusing on the elimination of the breeding grounds of the mosquito that transmits the disease, the Aedes aegypti,” observes Dr. Eimar Araujo, Vice-President of the Brazilian Red Cross (BRC). This is why the Red Cross has launched an operation to mitigate the impact of the epidemic. Direct prevention campaigns aim to reach 10,000 people, and the message will also be conveyed indirectly to three million people through the media.

“The campaign is simple, but effective. Forty Red Cross volunteers trained in emergency health are working in teams in the worst hit municipalities of Rio de Janeiro, putting up posters explaining prevention measures in public places, such as supermarkets and bus stations,” explains Hugo Quiroga, Secretary General of the BRC. “Each volunteer carries out a workshop on prevention and health measures and makes door-to-door visits. This community work will be reinforced with the broadcasting of four radio spots and a television broadcast on dengue fever prevention and health measures.”

The Brazilian Red Cross, in its role as auxiliary to the public authorities, cooperates and coordinates all its actions with the local authorities and with the International Federation. A health expert from the regional intervention team is travelling to Rio to help the BRC with this operation. The International Federation has allocated 55,000 Swiss francs (USD 55,000) to finance the Brazilian Red Cross operations.