Brazil surpasses 5 million cases of dengue

Historic record as higher than the worst scenario forecasted by the country’s Ministry of Health

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo |
Zoonosis teams carry out field work to combat dengue outbreaks in the city of Osasco, São Paulo state - Paulo Pinto/Agência Brasil

Data from Brazil’s Ministry of Health shows that the country surpassed 5 million dengue fever cases in 2024, meaning an all-time record: it is higher than the government's most pessimistic forecasts.

In January, the Ministry of Health released its numbers for this year's epidemiological scenario. At the time, there were already signs that the country could experience an unprecedented dengue outbreak. Estimates were that the number of people infected could vary between 1.9 million and 4.2 million. In the most recent update, released on Monday (20), there are 5,100,766 cases.

The predicted ceiling for the total amount of infections in 2024 had already been exceeded less than a month ago. Over the last five weeks, the disease has started to advance at a slower pace. Even so, the circulation of the virus remains at worrying levels in the country.

Data for the period from May 5 to 11 showed that there was no longer any upward trend in the rate of spread of the disease in any unit of the Federation. However, the epidemic is still active. At the time, only the states of Mato Grosso and Maranhão did not show a decline but presented stable numbers compared to the previous week. In all the other states and the Federal District, the disease grew more slowly compared to the previous week.

At a press conference last Tuesday (14), the Health Surveillance Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Ethel Maciel, stressed that the number of cases is still considered high in Brazil. “Although we no longer have expressive growth, we still remain on alert. This indicates a greater level of attention we must pay to it.”

Used to establish epidemic levels, the so-called Incidence Coefficient remains above 300 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 Brazilian states. This scenario covers the entire South, Southeast and Midwest regions. In the North and Northeast, the numbers are lower, but still higher than usual.   

Also according to the data presented by the Ministry of Health, Brazil has already recorded more than 2,800 deaths this year. The result also represents an all-time record. So far, the year with the highest numbers has been 2023, with 1,094 deaths.  

About dengue

Dengue is caused by a virus transmitted by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Among the most common symptoms are high fever, muscle and joint pain and skin rashes. The disease can cause internal bleeding in organs and tissues, which can lead to death.   

There are four types of the dengue virus. People infected with one of them are not immune to the others, which favors the occurrence of more serious epidemics from time to time. In Brazil, these periods occur on average every three years.  

However, the dismantling of public policies seen in Brazil in recent years has led to successively considerable numbers. In 2022 and 2023, there were also unprecedented numbers of dengue cases and dengue-related deaths.   

Other factors also influence the increase in infections, including climate change. As the mosquito proliferates in standing water, heavy rainfall boosts the presence of the vector. In addition, Aedes aegypti reproduces more quickly in hot weather, so it benefits from the extreme temperatures recently recorded in Brazil.  

The population can help fight the disease by eliminating places with standing water, which become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. These include tires, water tanks, flower pots and accumulated garbage, for example.

Edited by: Matheus Alves de Almeida