7 things to know about travelling to Brazil

Health matters when preparing for your trip.

Written by Dr Michael Sororkin

1. More people = more chance of infection.

Brazil is roughly the size of Australia, but it contains a lot more people – 22.5 per square kilometre compared to Australia’s 2.7. Vaccination against flu is a good idea as well as being up to date for shots against measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and whooping cough, which are also spread through coughs and sneezes.

2. Did someone say mosquitos?

The pesky insects thrive even in the more southerly areas of Brazil. As you move northward to the warmer cities, the chances of being bitten by mosquitoes increases, which means an increasing risk of dengue fever. Mid-winter is a good time to be in Brazil but the cooler season does not entirely eliminate the risk of mosquito bites. Dengue fever is a nasty disease for which there is no vaccine and the mosquito that carries the dengue virus breeds in urban environments. Personal mosquito protection such as long sleeves and the use of repellent spray is essential.

3. Malaria is largely confined to the Amazon basin.

The malaria mosquito mainly feeds at night so staying in air-conditioned or flyscreened accommodation and minimising time spent outdoors in the evening are important to reduce the risk when visiting malarious areas. The need for antimalarial medication must be discussed with a travel health professional.

4. It’s a designated Yellow Fever country.

Not every part of Brazil is affected by this serious mosquito-borne disease – it is absent in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and the coastal areas as for north as Fortaleza. But regardless of which part of Brazil you are visiting, you will be required for visa purposes to show evidence of having been vaccinated against yellow fever. Furthermore, travellers will be subject to Australian quarantine regulations upon return, which require travellers to show evidence of vaccination if they have spent any of their six preceding nights in a Yellow Fever country. (New Zealand has no such a requirement.)

5. Some care should be taken when eating out.

Overall municipal functions are good, and in most hotels and resorts the water supply will be safe. Control over food preparation naturally varies and care is needed when eating out – for example, be wary of the crushed sugarcane drink garapa. Doctors will recommend vaccination against hepatitis A and Typhoid Fever, diseases which can be conveyed by contaminated food or water. It is always a good idea to also have a supply of medication to control nausea or diarrhoea.

6. Blood-borne and sexually transmitted viruses are always a risk.

The prevalence of HIV-AIDS in Brazil slightly higher than in Australasia. Unprotected sex is a definite health hazard in any country. Hepatitis B is another sexually transmitted disease, but this virus is also easily transmitted by blood contaminated needles. Vaccination provides good protection.

7. Be prepared – but don’t worry too much.

Travellers surfing the web will find long lists of exotic diseases occurring in Brazil, but they are all very unlikely to affect visitors. A look at the way most of them are transmitted suggests that the most important thing to pack should be insect repellent.

If you or friend and family are planning to visit Brazil2014, check yellowfeverbrazil.com for more information and book an appointment with TheTravel Doctor – TMVC. All Medibank and ahm members receive 10% discounts on vaccines and products.

Written by Dr Michael Sororkin

Dr Michael Sorokin of The Travel Doctor has extensive experience as a physician and GP in South Africa, the UK, the Pacific Islands and rural South Australia. He was awarded the Fiji Independence Medal in recognition of his services to health care in Fiji.

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