Charlie Cooper – The Independent, 3/17/2014
Picture the scene. It’s an hour before kick-off on Brazil’s north-east coast and anticipation is building on the streets of Natal. A crowd of football fans from every corner of the globe is gathering in cafés and caipirinha bars, all on their way to the gleaming new Estadio das Dunas – where health officials wearing gas masks are assiduously fogging mosquitoes out of the gutters, their fumes glimmering in the sun.
Most World Cups have their peculiar, defining feature – “Nessun dorma” at Italia 1990; vuvuzelas in South Africa 2010. But what are the chances that Brazil 2014 will be remembered – somewhat less fondly – as the dengue fever World Cup? Dengue, an infection spread by mosquitoes, “could be a significant problem” in some of the host cities, a leading British expert has warned, amid growing evidence that the disease is “on the march” around the world.
Brazil saw well over a million cases last year and the global tally now totals, by some estimates, around 400 million annually. The disease causes severe headaches and aching in the bones and joints, which can get so bad it has earned the sobriquet “breakbone fever”. Around a quarter of victims become very unwell and in a small proportion of cases it can be fatal.