World Cup 2014: Brazil 'must act to prevent outbreak of dengue fever' during summer tournament, warns expert

 

Picture the scene. It’s an hour before kick-off on Brazil’s north-east coast and anticipation is building on the streets of Natal. A crowd of football fans from every corner of the globe is gathering in cafés and caipirinha bars, all on their way to the gleaming new Estadio das Dunas – where health officials wearing gas masks are assiduously fogging mosquitoes out of the gutters, their fumes glimmering in the sun.

Most World Cups have their peculiar, defining feature – “Nessun dorma” at Italia 1990; vuvuzelas in South Africa 2010. But what are the chances that Brazil 2014 will be remembered – somewhat less fondly – as the dengue fever World Cup? Dengue, an infection spread by mosquitoes, “could be a significant problem” in some of the host cities, a leading British expert has warned, amid growing evidence that the disease is “on the march” around the world.

Brazil saw well over a million cases last year and the global tally now totals, by some estimates, around 400 million annually. The disease causes severe headaches and aching in the bones and joints, which can get so bad it has earned the sobriquet “breakbone fever”. Around a quarter of victims become very unwell and in a small proportion of cases it can be fatal.

Although the World Cup is being held at a time of year when the dengue risk is low for most parts of Brazil, for three host cities in the north east – Fortaleza, Salvador and Natal – it will be close to its peak, said Professor Simon Hay, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, who raised the alarm in the journal Nature at the end of last year.

 

“Dengue is on the march,” he told The Independent. “People tend to know about malaria – most people know that if you go to a tropical country you should take malaria pills. I don’t think most people know about dengue. It’s a horrible disease if you get it.”

The mosquito species which spreads dengue, Aedes aegypti, is easily identifiable by its white spots. It is a prodigiously successful breeder and thrives in urban areas, where it can breed in stagnant water – anything from a discarded coke can gathering rainwater to a blocked gutter. Clearing potential breeding sites in host cities will be crucial, Professor Hay said, adding that fogging – the use of aerosol insecticides – should begin in April and May.

His piece in Nature received some “pretty pointed comments” from Brazilians, he says. The authorities are understandably eager to allay fears of a major dengue outbreak, with international enthusiasm for the World Cup already dented by the deaths of workers building stadiums and riots over the cost of the event to a population still blighted by poverty.

But Professor Hay has no criticism for the Brazilian health authorities – merely a concern that many of the 500,000 international football fans expected to descend on Brazil this summer, largely from countries where dengue is unheard of, might not be as wary of the disease as they should be. A Ministry of Health worker fumigates a public university which has suffered a dangerous outbreak of dengue fever A Ministry of Health worker fumigates a public university which has suffered a dangerous outbreak of dengue fever

“You’ve got lots of people coming and you pretty much know where they’re going and at what times. I think getting the word out that dengue is an issue – posters in the right place when fans are going into stadiums, will be important,” he said.

There are no drugs and no vaccines against dengue – although the latter is at the human testing stage at Brazil’s own Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo. The most effective way to prevent it is to avoid getting bitten.

Health authorities in Brazil say they are alive to the threat. Local areas were given a total of $363m (£218m) in 2013 to combat dengue and regional authorities are being tasked with inspecting stadiums and other areas where World Cup crowds will be congregating for mosquito breeding areas.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?