Yellow fever outbreak in Brazil prompts a state of emergency

The governor of the Minas Gerais State in southeastern Brazil declared a public health emergency on Friday over an outbreak of yellow fever that appears to have killed at least 10 people so far and led to reports of more than 100 suspected cases of the disease.

It's been a rather bad two years from Brazil. It started with that humiliating 7-1 loss at home in the 2014 World Cup, aka the afternoon that Germany did not stop scoring. Add zika, the impeachment of a president for corruption scandals, and now an outbreak of yellow fever.

In the past two weeks, the southeastern state of Minas Gerais has dealt with a yellow fever outbreak. Brazil’s Ministry of Health suspects that the disease has already claimed 38 lives since January 1st. There are also 133 suspect cases of yellow fever infection.

The state government has announced a state of emergency in 152 cities. Governor Fernando Pimentel launched an $8-million vaccination project to counter-attack. Vaccines will be administrated seven days a week.

Minas Gerais has experienced yellow fever epidemics before; the last one was in 2002 to 2003, when 63 people got the fever and 23 people died. Other Brazilian states have experienced more recent outbreaks; from 2008 to 2009, Rio Grande do Sul had 21 confirmed cases and nine deaths, while Sao Paulo had 28 cases and 11 deaths.

Yellow fever itself is very serious. The majority of people infected will have only a mild illness, which includes symptoms like fever, chills, headache, body aches, vomiting and weakness. However, about 15 percent of patients will get more severe symptoms, which include high fever, jaundice, bleeding and multiple organ failure. Of those who get this severe form of yellow fever, 20 to 50 percent could die, according to the CDC.

There is no cure for yellow fever, and the only recommended treatment is rest, pain relievers, fever reducers and drinking plenty of water.

“This is not the first time this has happened,” Dr. Alves said. “We know the virus has a cyclical behavior, and from time to time we see activity in areas of transmission. But each time this happens it is of concern because we could see the return of yellow fever to Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in urban areas.”

The government of Minas Gerais said Friday that the declaration of a public health emergency expanded its ability to deal with the growing crisis, allowing it to assign contracts for more workers and services without having to go through the rounds of bidding normally required under Brazilian law.

“We are taking all the preventive measures, especially in affected areas in the rural zone,” Gov. Fernando Pimentel said in comments published on the State Health Secretariat’s website on Friday. “Everything that is necessary is being done, and with the help of everyone and the awareness of the population, we will overcome this moment.”

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