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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 March 2008, 17:08 GMT
Military helps Rio tackle dengue
By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo

A man looks at stagnant water in the Curicica slum in Rio de Janeiro, 21 March 2008
Stagnant waters are a breeding ground for mosquitoes
Brazil's Defence Minister Nelson Jobim says the military is ready to help the city of Rio de Janeiro deal with rising numbers of dengue fever cases.

Some 48 people have now died across the state of Rio since the start of 2008.

The vast majority of victims have been in the city itself, where hospitals have been struggling to cope.

Dengue fever - which is transmitted by mosquitoes - causes high temperature, headaches and muscle pain and, in extreme cases, it can kill.

The impact is increasingly being felt in urban areas where stagnant waters are an attractive breeding ground for mosquitoes.

While overall, federal officials say the number of cases in Brazil have fallen, in the state of Rio de Janeiro there has been a significant rise - more than 33,000 this year - prompting one leading doctor to describe it as a catastrophe.

A seven-month-old baby girl is thought to have been the latest victim, and hospitals have been struggling to cope with the demand, with many people queuing for hours to get attention.

'Leniency'

The defence minister has said the plans could involve setting up military hospitals in the areas which have been worst affected.

There has been growing criticism of the authorities for their handling of the crisis, with the local doctors' union urging prosecutors to charge officials with criminal negligence.

Although Mr Jobim did not apportion blame to any specific authority, he said there had been what he called a "leniency in the campaign against dengue" and because of this, "we are now paying the price", he added.

City officials are to open a crisis centre next week and are urging children and adolescents, who have been among the worst affected by the outbreak, to wear long trousers, socks and shoes to help prevent mosquito bites.

Easter holiday leave has been cancelled for doctors, with hospitals now reporting more than 2,000 new cases a day.



SEE ALSO
Yellow fever alert alarms Brazil
11 Jan 08 |  Americas
Paraguay put on dengue alert
30 Jan 08 |  Americas

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