By Alyah Khan

Recent news reports about Brazil indicate rising concerns about the prevalence of dengue in the country. In mid-February, Brazil’s health minister Alexandre Padilha warned of an impending dengue epidemic due to the discovery of a new type of dengue virus (type 4) in the populous city of Rio de Janeiro.

“I consider Rio de Janeiro runs the risk of one of the worst epidemics, in number of cases of dengue in its history,” Padilha said, according to a report by PressTV. Nearly 3,500 dengue patients have been identified in Rio since the start of 2012, which is about 1,100 cases more than last year, the report added.
 
Padilha’s warning coincided with the start of the Brazilian Carnival celebrations – a time when visitors flood the city. “Around half a million foreign visitors are expected between Feb. 17 and Feb. 26, 86,000 by cruise ship in Rio alone, raising the risk that the epidemic could spread,” David Scales wrote in HealthMap’s The Disease Daily.
 
Scales noted in his article that type 4 dengue re-entered northern Brazil about a year ago and it has subsequently spread to southern parts of the country, such as Rio. The most common forms of dengue in Brazil are types 1 and 3, reports said.
 
At this point you might be wondering, how many types of dengue exist?
 
As the World Health Organization explains, there are four distinct, but closely related, serotypes of the virus that cause dengue (DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 and DEN-4).
 
If a person gets sick with one type of the dengue virus and recovers, they will have lifelong immunity against that particular serotype. However, each time an individual gets infected with a new type of dengue, the risk of developing severe dengue increases. This is why Brazilian officials are concerned about the re-emergence of the type 4 dengue virus – people in the country likely aren’t immune to it.
 
There are no drugs available to prevent or treat dengue infection. As a result, the people of Rio are coming up with creative ways to combat the disease, including launching the crowdsourcing website, “Rio sem Dengue” (Rio without Dengue). The site allows citizens to self-report cases of dengue and mosquito focal points. Visitors to the site can see the reports pinpointed on a map and add photos of locations to their reports.
 
The government of Rio has also created the “junior firefighter” initiative to incorporate kids and teenagers in the effort against dengue. Through the initiative, young people teach their families, neighbors and friends how to recognize dengue symptoms and identify mosquito breeding sources, according to an IPS report.
 
To learn more about dengue and the work of the Dengue Vaccine Initiative please visit the following website: http://denguevaccines.org/