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Brazil battles deadly dengue epidemic in Rio

by Staff Writers
Rio De Janeiro (AFP) March 27, 2008
Brazilian authorities are taking emergency measures in Rio de Janeiro to fight a dengue fever outbreak that has killed 54 people and infected more than 43,000 across the state.

Health officials said the city of Rio -- the country's prime tourist destination -- was the worst hit, and children made up more than half the fatalities.

Another 60 deaths were being investigated to see whether they resulted from the tropical disease, which is transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitos.

The toll for the first three months of this year exceeds the total from all of 2007, state officials said.

Rio's municipal Civil Defense service has been mobilized and given special powers to enter into private buildings at any time of day or night without permission to inspect for possible mosquito colonies.

Military personnel, including 1,200 fire officers, were also deployed.

Residents were being trained into "anti-dengue brigades" to help the fight, a statement from the state governor's office said.

Information on the malady, which causes fever, muscle pain and sometimes rashes and diarrhea and usually lasts about a week, was to be distributed at the free courses. In extreme cases, dengue fever can cause hemorrhage and death.

Treatment usually consists of making the patient comfortable until the fever passes, and providing plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Asprin is to be avoided because of the risk of bleeding sometimes associated with the disease.

Hospitals have put in 119 extra beds to cope with the outbreak, and national Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao on Monday announced 660 more medical personnel would be hired to tackle the influx of patients.

He added that he was "worried" that the mortality rate from the outbreak was five times higher than that considered normal by the World Health Organization.

Parents in the city of 10 million have expressed fear.

"The school called me to come and get my daughter because she was vomiting, had diarrhea and pain over her body. She had dengue symptoms. I'm very scared," said one woman, Daniele Maria da Silva Rodriguez.

She was holding the hand of her four-year-old girl, Raissa, as the two came out of a hospital in Rio's poorer western part, which has seen more than a third of the dengue cases.

"The doctor said Raissa has dengue symptoms, with fever and headaches, and she gave me a prescription for medicine. I have to go back in two days for another examination. I'm really worried," said da Silva Rodriguez.

Inside the hospital, other women were waiting with their children, anguish written on their faces.

So far, the epidemic has not impacted on Rio's tourist industry, Jeanina Pires, the head of the government tourist authority Embratur told reporters in Sao Paulo.

The coastal city attracts around two million visitors a year.

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UN spotlights scope of AIDS epidemic in Asia
United Nations (AFP) March 26, 2008
Nearly 500,000 people will die of AIDS each year in Asia by 2020 unless prevention efforts are fully implemented, a UN report said Wednesday.

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