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Saturday, May 31, 2014

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Football: World Cup city gripped by dengue fever

AFP | Saturday, May 31, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO - The Brazilian city where Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Nigeria's John Mikel Obi will train for the World Cup is in the grip of a crippling dengue fever epidemic.

Workers in Campinas have embarked on a huge operation to eradicate mosquitos, which spread the disease, before the Portuguese and Nigerian teams arrive.

Some 32,384 people have been infected by dengue this year in the south-eastern city about one hour from Sao Paulo. At least three people have died.

"It's a record epidemic. It's bigger than the 11,500 cases registered in all of 2007," said Andrea Von Zuben, who coordinates the Campinas dengue control programme.

Dengue is a viral infection carried by the aedes aegypti mosquito.

The fever is like chronic influenza with severe headaches, muscle and joint pain, vomiting and a rash.

Severe cases can be deadly. Three people have died of dengue this year in Campinas, women aged 27, 69 and 81. Three other deaths are being investigated to see if they were caused by the disease.

There is no cure for dengue, so prevention is the best medicine.

The World Health Organisation recommends people in infected areas prevent mosquito bites with window screens, insect repellant and mosquito coils.

It also suggests covering up exposed skin - advice that may cramp Portuguese captain Ronaldo's bare-chested style, a topic of much commentary after his pectoral-flexing goal celebration at this year's Champions League final.

Brazil has been hit harder by dengue than any other country so far this century, with seven million cases reported between 2000 and 2013.

Von Zuben said the Campinas outbreak was being driven by a heatwave at the beginning of the year, the prevalence of a particularly virulent dengue strain and poor sanitation that leaves pools of standing water where mosquitos breed.

But she said the areas where the Nigerian and Portuguese squads will be are a mosquito-control priority for health officials.

"We put larvicides and anti-mosquito poisons at the airport, in the training centers and in the hotels, so the teams will run a much smaller risk than the local population," she told AFP.

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