Dengue Outbreak Causes Brazil to Send Hundreds of Health Workers to Emergency Rooms

Brazil will send hundreds of health workers to Rio de Janeiro state to help overwhelmed emergency rooms that are reporting 80 new cases of dengue fever every hour, the health minister announced Monday.

In addition to the 671 health professionals, the government also will deploy 300 workers and 15 insecticide-spraying vehicles to combat the Aegis aegypti mosquito, which spreads the disease and breeds in puddles of standing water, Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao said.

Officials also opened a crisis center for officials from the state and federal governments and the armed forces to coordinate prevention efforts, although the army's role remains undefined.

And the federal government opened three hydration tents Monday to help treat victims, who frequently suffer from dehydration. Temporao said the government would eventually open some 660 "hydration stations" around the state.

Dengue can incapacitate patients for over a week with severe headaches and joint pains, but is not usually fatal. A deadly hemorrhagic variant that causes internal and external bleeding accounts for fewer than 5 percent of cases but has shown signs of growing — often affecting people who have recovered from a less-severe form.

So far, more than 32,000 cases have been confirmed around the state, which has a population of 16 million people, and 49 people have been confirmed dead. Health specialists, however, believe the number of victims could be three times as high as reported.

There is no vaccine for dengue and treatment is usually limited analgesics, bed rest and fluids.