Dengue in Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil - update from ECDC 25th March 2008


Brazil is currently experiencing an epidemic of dengue fever, with 49 deaths in the state of Rio de Janeiro this year, according to local health officials. Around 32,000 cases of dengue have been reported in the state this year, most of them in the capital city Rio de Janeiro. Recent media articles have stated that the capital registered 1,100 cases of dengue fever between March 17 and March 18 and that 80 cases of dengue are being reported every hour.

Brazil as a whole reported almost 560,000 cases of dengue in 2007, and 158 deaths [1]. On 19 March, Brazil's Ministry of Health announced that it had established a dedicated crisis office to tackle the epidemic [2]. Paraguay and other countries in Latin America have also been experiencing large outbreaks of dengue fever in recent months. The majority of cases in the region occur between January and May, corresponding to the rainy season in most of the affected countries.

Dengue fever is a viral disease endemic in the Americas, Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean and Africa. Humans are infected with dengue virus through bites of Aedes mosquitoes. There are four closely related but serologically distinct dengue virus serotypes, all of which have the potential to cause either classic dengue fever or the more severe form of the disease, dengue haemorrhagic fever. The main clinical symptoms of classic dengue are fever for two to seven days, severe headaches with pain behind the orbits of the eyes, severe muscle and joint pain, nausea and vomiting. Although dengue fever does not naturally occur in the continental European Union, it is frequently reported by travellers.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent dengue or dengue haemorrhagic fever. Travellers to endemic countries instead need to rely on the following preventive measures to minimize the exposure to mosquito bites:

  • Use anti-mosquito devices (insecticide-treated bed nets, coils, smudge pots, spray, repellents) and wear long-sleeved and long-legged clothes, especially during the hours of highest mosquito activity (two to three hours after dawn and during the early evening morning and late afternoon). Mosquito repellent based on a 30% DEET concentration is recommended.
  • Before using repellents, pregnant women and children under the age of 12 years should consult a physician or pharmacist.
  • For infants younger than three months old, repellents are not recommended; instead, insecticide-treated bed nets should be used.

For more information on preventing dengue and ECDC's work on this disease, please see the following links:


  1. Pan American Health Organization. 2007: Number of Reported Cases of Dengue & Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF), Region of the Americas (by country and subregion). Available from:
  2.  Ministro monta gabinete de crise contra dengue. Press release. 19 March 2008. Available from: