Not Just Zika: 5 Health Risks You Need to Know About When Visiting Brazil

Health In Focus   - G J E 4
  • Rio Olympic fears over Zika
  • Zika virus is proving concerns for many travellers and athletes alike
  • Yellow fever, malaria, rabies, dengue fever and altitude sickness are other health risks present in Brazil
Rio 2016 is just around the corner, making Brazil the go-to destination for sports fans of all nationalities from August 5.
Not Just Zika: 5 Health Risks You Need to Know About When Visiting Brazil
Not Just Zika: 5 Health Risks You Need to Know About When Visiting Brazil

However, a prominent news feature from the last 12 months has been the spread of the Zika virus, which is prevalent in the South American nation and is proving concerning for many traveler and athletes alike.

‘Apart from Zika virus, there are other health risks in Brazil which a traveler should keep in mind and take precautionary measures.’
Over 90,000 suspected cases occurred in the two months from the beginning of February to April this year, with the South East region (where Rio is situated and with the highest population density) having the highest number of diagnoses in this period.

However, even though this infection is receiving the most press coverage due to its recent increase, there are other risks present in Brazil which the would-be traveler should be mindful of, and make preparations to prevent prior to departure.

Yellow Fever

Spread by mosquitoes, yellow fever patients will develop the usual fever symptoms such as a high temperature, sickness and headache, which may clear after a few days. But roughly one in seven will go on to develop more severe effects.

The condition isn't usually present in urban areas but is known to have a presence in rural Brazilian regions. If traveling to these areas, immunization is recommended, and should be administered at least 10 days prior to travel.


This mosquito-transmitted infection can be life-threatening. In Brazil, there were 143,000 cases in 2014. Risk of infection is categorized as 'low' by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. However malaria should always be taken seriously due to the potentially life-threatening nature of infection.

There is no vaccination for malaria, so prophylactic medicine is crucial. In Brazil, the parasite has developed a resistance to chloroquine, meaning that an alternative is usually given for travelers to this region. This may be atovaquone-proguanil, doxycycline or mefloquine (or a combination of one or more).


Transmitted via physical contact (bites, scratches and licking) with infected animals, (usually dogs) rabies is a deadly virus, and there is no agreed method of treatment for someone who is infected once symptoms have begun to develop. In such cases, the patient will very likely not make a recovery.

Post-exposure treatment is available, but the best option is to be vaccinated before travel. This needs to be given as three doses over a one-month period before it is effective, so it's important to take this into account in advance when planning for your trip.

Dengue Fever

This illness is a mosquito-borne virus, and although it is often not serious, causing the usual symptoms of fever (such as raised temperature, headache and muscle and joint pain) before dissipating, it can on occasion turn severe.

There is no vaccination for dengue fever, so bite prevention measures are key. These include wearing long sleeves and covering exposed areas of skin wherever possible, and using repellent products such as DEET spray.

Altitude Sickness

Many parts of Brazil (Rio included) are significantly above sea level, and caution is advised when ascending and descending at high altitudes. This means giving your body time to acclimatize to the difference in oxygen consistency, by pacing your travel between altitudinous destinations.

It's recommended that travelers who aren't used to lower oxygen levels allow their bodies 2-3 days to get used to the environment. One whole day's rest is also important, ideally every three days.

In cases where a gradual, measured ascent or descent is not feasible, the medication Diamox can ease symptoms and make the transition easier. However, it should not be considered a substitute for gradual travel.

  1. Our Malaria World Map of Estimated - (
Source: Medindia

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