The killer mosquito flies into Rio
Gibby Zobel reports from Brazil on the deadly virus spreading through the favelas
The jet-set holiday destination of Rio de Janeiro is gripped by a deadly epidemic of dengue fever, the worst in 50 years. Mosquitoes are rampant, tourists are running scared, and the authorities are blamed for dithering.
So far 85 people have died, half of them under 14. The state health secretary, Sergio Cortes, warns the true toll could be double that. He has not helped ease the sense of panic by stating: "The mosquito is winning. There is no hope of a vaccine in the next five or 10 years."
It's true no vaccine exists for the fatal strain, hemorrhagic dengue, which causes internal and external bleeding. But there are preventative measures one can take to avoid being bitten by the Aedes aegypti black mosquito – keeping the body covered, using mosquito nets at night, and avoiding standing water where mosquitoes swarm.
The trouble is one in four people in Rio live in poverty in the favelas or shanty-towns where pools of water are common in the rainy season. Efforts to contain the spread of the disease are being hampered by the never-ending drug war which impedes access to the favelas.
With more than 75,000 outbreaks reported in the past three months, health posts and hospitals are overwhelmed. Cristiane Carvalho couldn't save her mother, Maria. "We took her to five different places and we couldn't get medical attention," she said.
Thousands of state troops and firefighters are hunting mosquito breeding grounds and spraying with insecticide. The British supermodel Naomi Campbell has flown into Rio to publicise the fight against dengue and will give blood today. "We can't stand still," she says. ·
Comments are now closed on this article