Page last updated at 10:07 GMT, Tuesday, 1 April 2008 11:07 UK

Brazil army aids Rio dengue fight

People are treated  in a military field hospital in Rio on 31 March
The military clinics are aiming to take the pressure off public hospitals

The Brazilian military has opened three new field clinics in Rio de Janeiro to help officials tackle a surge in dengue fever that has overwhelmed hospitals.

Officials say 13 people have died since Friday, bringing the number of deaths this year in Rio de Janeiro state to 67, with some 45,000 people infected.

The mosquito-borne disease causes high temperature, headaches and muscle pain and, in extreme cases, can be fatal.

President Lula has said all levels of government have mishandled the crisis.

"It's the responsibility of the president, the governor, the mayor and each resident of this country," he said on Monday night.

"If we don't clean up the water in our home, our street, our city, our state, we will all be victims of irresponsibility."

Stagnant water

Brazilian Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao last week said Rio's municipal authorities bore much of the blame, by failing to spray against mosquitoes early enough to control the outbreak.

Transmitted by Aedes mosquito
Symptoms 3-14 days after bite
Symptoms range from mild fever to severe headache and rash
More than 630,000 cases in Latin America in 2007
183 deaths over same period in region
11% rise in cases over previous year
Source: WHO

A judge also ordered Rio authorities to begin using private hospitals to cope with the surge in cases, accusing officials of neglect and indifference.

Nationwide, the number of dengue cases is 27% down on the same period last year, according to the health ministry.

But the mayor of Rio, Cesar Maia, has said that the city was not warned early enough by the federal authorities of the scale of the problem.

Rio state officials said the three new military field hospitals should help to ease the pressure on emergency rooms packed with people suffering from dengue.

"We have to enter into combat like we're fighting a war, to minimise the suffering of the population," Major Robert Tury told the Associated Press.

The authorities have also been spraying areas with powerful insecticides and inspecting areas with pools of stagnant water where mosquitoes can breed.

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