Ahead of Carnival, Brazil battles emergency dengue outbreak

Ahead of Carnival, Brazil battles emergency dengue outbreak


Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians have been infected with dengue fever since the start of the year, and public health officials are preparing emergency measures, opening new hospitals and starting a mass vaccination campaign just days before crowds take to the streets to celebrate Carnival.

main facts

According to Reuters, Brazil’s Ministry of Health has reported 364,855 dengue cases so far this year, with 40 confirmed deaths and 240 more deaths under investigation.

Some 25,000 cases have been detected in Rio de Janeiro, where Carnival celebrations are scheduled to begin on February 14, with an estimated 100,000 people flocking to the city each day during the festival, according to Brazil’s state-run news agency Brasil.

Brazil’s health ministry opened 10 new care centers for dengue patients in Rio de Janeiro and announced more preventive measures, such as sealing off mosquito-infested homes and using smoke to drive away the insects.

Outbreaks are occurring across the country, with states of Minas Gerais, Acre, Goias and the capital Brasilia declaring states of emergency, according to the Associated Press.

The Brazilian Air Force also set up a field hospital in Serandia, a densely populated suburb of Brasilia, Reuters reported.

news hook

In response to the outbreak, Brazil’s health ministry has begun a mass vaccination campaign using Qdenga, a dengue vaccine that only began to gain regulatory approval in the past two years. Qdenga is approved for use in the EU, UK and Brazil, but has not yet been approved by the FDA for use in the US. Takeda, the Japanese pharmaceutical company that produces the vaccine, voluntarily withdrew its FDA application in July 2023. The agency requested more data. The Brazilian government purchased 6.5 million doses of the vaccine in 2024 and ordered an additional 9 million doses in 2025, according to the Brazilian Ministry of Health. About 750,000 of those doses arrived in the country on January 25, with another 586,000 doses due to arrive in February, the health ministry reported. Supply remains an issue, however, as the vaccine requires two doses given over three months.

main background

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 400 million people are infected with dengue fever each year, resulting in approximately 40,000 deaths. Like Zika and Chikungunya, dengue is caused by a virus and is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. Dengue fever does not spread from person to person, but mosquitoes can still spread the disease to humans quickly, especially at large events like carnival. According to the World Health Organization, infected humans can spread the disease unnoticed by transmitting the disease to mosquitoes up to 2 days before symptoms appear. The CDC says only about a quarter of people infected with dengue fever become ill, but in severe cases, those who do develop nausea, vomiting and internal bleeding. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4 billion people, or about half the world’s population, live in dengue-endemic areas. Dengue fever is uncommon in the United States, but cases have been identified in Arizona and Florida.

further reading

More from ForbesPainful dengue fever may be ‘epidemic’ in U.S. – What to know about ‘broke fever’ virus
More from ForbesParts of Florida on mosquito-borne disease alert: What to know about dengue fever and why cases are rising

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