Brazil denies yellow fever epidemic, but suggests vaccination
Brazil faces no risk of a yellow fever epidemic, despite an outbreak that killed two people last week in the capital, Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao said in Brasilia.
However the health ministry asked a Rio-based foundation to double production of a yellow fever vaccine from 15 million to 30 million doses in 2008. "The situation is absolutely under control," Gomes Temporao told a news conference. "There is no need for mass vaccination, no epidemic. What we're doing is adequate." Neighboring Uruguay and Paraguay have declared a state of emergency in border areas while Argentina faces a growing demand for vaccines given the significant influx of tourists planning to spend their holidays along the Brazilian coast. Twenty four suspected cases of yellow fever, a deadly virus spread by mosquitoes, are under investigation in Brazil, Secretary of Health Vigilance Gerson Penna said. Two deaths, one of them a visiting Spaniard who purchased land in Goias, are believed to have been caused by the disease according to the symptoms. Fears of the disease, piqued by reports that a group of wild monkeys were found dead with symptoms, prompted at least 230,000 people to seek free vaccinations at Brasilia clinics between December 29 and January 7, state media reported. An extra 250.000 doses of vaccine were sent to the capital, and the Brasilia National Park, where the dead monkeys were found, remained closed, Minister Gomes Temporao said. The minister underlined that Brazil has no registered cases of urban contagion since 1942 and all later outbreaks have occurred in rural risk areas and among people not vaccinated. Gomes Temporao recommended that Brazilians traveling to rural areas be vaccinated ten days in advance and pointed out that no cases have been reported for years along the country's long coastline. The vaccine immunity lasts ten years therefore those who were vaccinated before 1999 should have a repeat. According to the Brazilian Health ministry in January 3.23 million doses were distributed, three times the 961.000 average of 2007. However Gomes Temporao indicated that the number of cases has been "gradually" falling since 2003. While yellow fever has been largely eradicated, Brazil was last year wracked by a wave of dengue fever that spread across Latin America and the Caribbean. Some 438,949 cases and 98 deaths were reported in the first seven months of 2007 in Brazil alone.