With 481,000 cases reported in the first nine months of this year, Brazil is facing an epidemic of dengue fever; the Spanish news agency EFE quoted Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao as saying.
"It's already an epidemic really. This year 121 people have already died," Gomes Temporao said Tuesday while launching a new national campaign to combat the disease in the city of Belo Horizonte.
"It is a disease that kills and can only be dealt with effectively through a large-scale mobilization of society," the minister said.
The numbers up to September indicate that 2007 could be one of the country's worst years for the number of people who get sick and who die from dengue.
Until now, Brazil's highest toll from dengue fever came in 2002, with 794,000 reported cases and 150 deaths.
As of last July, when the number of cases was already 45 percent over 2006, the government refused to admit that the country was facing an epidemic.
"Dengue is a serious problem and it kills. This year 1,076 people had dengue hemorrhagic fever, which is the worst strain of the disease," Gomes Temporao said.
"The scenario this year is negative and for that reason we are launching a campaign before the rainy season, when the mosquito carrying the virus proliferates," he said.
"We still have time to take preventive measures, but the results depend on everyone doing their part," he said.
The National Campaign for Mobilization against Dengue launched Tuesday plans to transmit information on radio and television, as well as through the distribution of booklets with recommendations on how to prevent it, chiefly in the southeastern and central-western regions of the country.
The chief recommendation is to avoid leaving objects outdoors in which stagnant water can collect, such as bottles, tyres and deactivated swimming pools, which serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus.