Brazil's Health Minister, José Gomes Temporão, used a radio and TV pool this Sunday, January 13, in an effort to reassure the Brazilian population that they are safe and shouldn't worry about news that the country is threatened by an yellow fever epidemic.
"There is no epidemic risk", said Temporão. He told Brazilians that despite the suspicion of yellow fever in 24 people who fell ill in the last few days, until now only two of these incidents have turned out to be yellow fever.
The first one in Brazilian capital Brasília resulted in the death of a man and the second case, that of a woman in São Paulo was treated and cured. Five of the reports were found out to be something else. The other cases are still being investigated. Temporão guaranteed that Brazil hasn't had a case of urban yellow fever since 1942.
"All the cases we had since then," said the minister, "were wild yellow fever, in other words, all these people contracted the disease in the jungle."
According to the Health minister, the suspicious cases are located and restricted to areas where some people who were not vaccinated went inside the jungle in recent weeks.
"The Health Ministry took all the preventive measures to avoid that disease cases happened even before the confirmation of the case under investigation," informed the minister.
Temporão recommended people only contact health posts for yellow fever vaccines when they live in so-called risk areas or intend to visit them and this should be limited to those who are not vaccinated or had their vaccine before 1999.
According to the Health Ministry, 3.23 million vaccine doses against yellow fever were distributed throughout Brazil this January alone. During the whole of 2007, 11.5 million doses had been offered through health centers nationwide.
Still according to the Brazilian health authorities, from December 29, 2007, to January 12, 892,982 people in a population of 2.4 million were vaccinated in the Federal District. The government believes that 90% of Brasília's population had already been vaccinated before this latest scare.
Since the vaccine offers ten years of protection authorities advise people against getting a reinforcement dose during this ten-year period.
Brazil has started a vaccination campaign after the health ministry confirmed that a man in the capital Brasília died from yellow fever after spending the New Year's holidays in the neighboring city of Pirenópolis, in Goiás state.
Graco Carvalho Abubakir, 38, died January 8 after spending four days at the intensive-care unit of a hospital in the capital, the Health Secretariat in Brasilia said on its Web site.
Health officials say about 18 people from the city are now suspected of having the disease, but they insist there is no yellow fever epidemic.
The Secretariat said it has vaccinated almost 560,000 people in Brasília since December 29, after residents started to panic when two monkeys at the city's municipal park died from the disease, raising fears of a resurgence of the urban form of yellow fever.
The disease, caused by a virus that's endemic in Brazilian and African forests and transmitted by mosquitoes, is usually restricted to rural or jungle areas in the Amazon and midwestern Brazil. Goiás state includes forest areas.
In its jungle form, yellow fever occurs mostly in monkeys in Brazil's forests. Brazil hasn't had a case of urban yellow fever since 1942. Last year, five people died from the jungle form, down from 40 deaths in 2000.
The most severe cases in humans may lead vital organs to stop functioning. The symptoms are high fever, nausea, muscle pain and vomiting. It is named for the yellowing of skin and eyes that follows liver failure.