Brazilians Spraying and Praying for Dengue Vaccine Breakthrough
Friday, April 24, 2015
A cup of cloves, a half-liter of alcohol and a dollop of body oil: You won’t find this homemade mosquito repellent in Brazilian drugstores, but the recipe went viral after a worried sanitarian posted a cell phone video on Facebook last week.
Amid one of their worst outbreaks of dengue fever — 460,000 people infected and 132 dead this year — Brazilians are understandably jumpy. That humming sound is aedes aegypti, a familiar pest storied for spreading yellow fever throughout tropical America and now enjoying a comeback as the vector for what has become a 21st-century pandemic.
Once a mostly Asian affliction, the dengue virus has gone global because of breakneck urbanization, bad management of water, haphazard public health care and travel on jets that can take passengers anywhere overnight. A 2013 study in Nature reckoned that dengue had infected 390 million people that year, with 94 million falling ill.
The outbreak is especially severe in the Americas, which have seen a30-fold increase in the disease over the past 50 years. Counting hospitalization and sick leave, the disease costs the region at least $2.1 billion a year, says the Pan American Health Organization.
Brazil, alone, accounts for six of every 10 reported cases of illness from dengue worldwide.
There is no vaccine or cure for dengue, leaving Latin Americans reaching for the bug juice and praying for a scientific breakthrough. “The only weapon we’ve had till now is mosquito control,” said immunologist Jorge Kalil Filho, who directs Instituto Butantan, a research center in Sao Paulo.
- Health Care