When teams from around the world battle it out on the field for the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil, spectators and athletes alike will also have to contend with the specter of dengue fever. The most severe form of the illness, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, can cause death in one out of four that are infected. As the host cities of Natal, Fortaleza, and Salvador prepare to welcome visitors, they will have to keep a careful watch on insects that spread the deadly virus.
Brazil’s tropical climate makes it an ideal environment for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which acts as the vector for the dengue fever virus. The insect is particularly fond of urbanized areas, and it finds ample breeding grounds among landscaped and concrete structures that collect standing water. Transportation networks may help to spread the disease across the country, and they could allow it to travel to the US. In addition to the World Cup, Brazil is also gearing up for the 2016 Summer Olympics and will need to address the pest problem that comes with the infrastructure and garbage that follows large crowds.
Infectious disease professionals urge the nation to adopt a strong mosquito abatement program that starts before dengue fever season, the use of insecticides, and clearing areas that could hold stagnant water. Fans are urged to wear clothing that covers the maximum amount of skin and stay in places that have screens and air conditioning.
Experts expect that climate change may have a role to play in the spread of dengue fever. While Brazil already has the perfect conditions for the disease, areas in the US such as Florida, Texas, and California could see an increase in mosquito traffic as temperatures rise. Over 40 percent of the world is at risk for the illness, and although scientists are currently working on a vaccine there is no effective treatment for the disease. As all eyes turn to South America for the World Cup and Olympics, Brazil has the opportunity to focus attention on a growing health burden for much of the globe.