Rio Braces Itself for Potential Chikungunya Epidemic

Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro // Photo by Kent Wien

Donna Bowater, Rio de Janeiro, The Daily Telegraph, April 6, 2015

Chikungunya, an incurable virus which has hit Peru and Colombia, could be heading for Rio, authorities in Brazil fear.

A fast-spreading mosquito-borne virus could affect seven in 10 people in Rio de Janeiro, health authorities have warned.

Experts have said it is only a matter of time before chikungunya, which is similar to dengue fever and for which there is no treatment, arrives in the Brazilian city and could fast become an epidemic.

So far this year in Rio there have been three cases of the disease, which is carried by two types of mosquito and causes fever, joint and muscle pain, and headache.

Most patients suffer symptoms for a few days and recover fully - though joint pain can last for months or even years, according to WHO advice. There is no cure for the disease and it can contribute to the death of older people. The WHO said that there have been 176 deaths, as of January 2015.

It has already been identified in the Amazon and surrounding countries including Peru and Colombia. The Foreign Office warned Britons travelling to the Caribbean to be aware of the disease. There have also been 55 cases confirmed in the US after it became a notifiable disease this year.

"We don't know why it hasn't yet arrived in Rio. It could be today or a bit further away," Alexandre Chieppe, of the health secretary in Rio de Janeiro state, told newspaper O Dia. "We have the insects and favourable climatic conditions."

Two weeks ago, state and municipal health secretaries met to discuss prevention and awareness campaigns.

Across the country, there have been 1,409 confirmed cases of the virus, all of which were people who had travelled to countries of transmission such as the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Venezuela.

Hellen Myiamoto, subsecretary for health surveillance in Rio, said: "Dengue is an old issue and a current issue at the same time.

"The appearance of cases of chikungunya fever reinforces further the care we have to take with control actions."

Chikungunya was first reported in Tanzania in 1952, according to the World Health Organisation.

In December 2013, two local cases were reported in the French part of St Martin, an island in the Caribbean, which was the first case of transmission in the Americas.

From there, the disease was reported in 43 countries across the continent.

In November the Brazilian government launched an awareness campaign encouraging the public to take care to prevent standing water from stagnating and keep rubbish bins closed to avoid attracting mosquitoes.

"Chikunguna fever is a new illness for the majority of health professionals in the country," said Giovanni Evelim Coelho, coordinator of the Ministry of Health's dengue control programme.

"It's essential to have detailed information about the approach to be taken with medication that needs to be administered to patients."


This article was written by Donna Bowater Rio de Janeiro from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.