Mosquitoes, Malaria and Dengue fever in Brazil

I spent a small fortune and a lot of time going to the doctors in the months prior to this South America trip, getting all sorts of injections and prescriptions for Yellow fever, Thyphoid, Tetanus, Hepititas A & B etc etc. I even received a yellow book (International Certificate of Vaccination)which I was told by my doctor I had to carry with me at all times and has all my injections itemised ( I am very proud of this book).

The only one they don’t give you anything for is Dengue fever (and Rabies but more on that debacle later). Lonely Planet reads like this “There is no treatment for Dengue fever…” and “The cornerstone of prevention is protection against insects.” By insects they really mean mosquitoes. More specifically mosquitoes that breed in pools of stagnant water. Did you know Dengue fever is especially common in densely populated, urban environments throughout South America?

While I was obsessed with taking my weekly Malaria tablets with their possible nasty side effects (think mental illness, psychosis or just vivid dreams) I still wasn’t particularly worried about Dengue fever.

The first warning poster for Dengue fever was out the front of our hotel in Rio on day 1 of our trip, I can’t read Portugese but Dengue, reads Dengue in Portugese as well. I then realised that there were as many Dengue fever health warning signs as Havaianas ads! Hang on, didn’t world champion surfer Andy Irons die of Dengue fever in November 2010? Then it started to rain in Rio. We even went to visit a favela (slums) in the rain, and you start to notice the pools of water lying around.

I started applying the Deet (disgusting, poisonous stuff – when are they going to invent something better) and after 5 days in Rio had zero mosquito bites, which for someone like me with pale skin and blood that makes mossies swoon is quite an achievement.

And then we went to Paraty, 125km south of Rio and the whole dynamics changed overnight!

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