Traveling to Brazil entails several health concerns to be taken into consideration, ranging in severity depending on various factors. The country is especially prone to mosquito borne diseases, such the infamous Zika virus which has gained significant attention in recent years. It is therefore a good idea to review health advisory before traveling and consider the right precautions to avoid health risks.
Before you travel
All travellers should visit either their personal physician or a travel health clinic 4-8 weeks before departure. Specifically, travellers should make sure they have received the appropriate boosters or the primary course if not received previously for the following: Hepatitis A, Typhoid, MMR, Yellow Fever and Tetanus-Diphtheria. Rabies and Hepatitis B may also be advised.
Zika is not the only mosquito born disease you should watch out for in Brazil. There is currently a Chikungunya outbreak in South America, and the number of Dengue cases has been increasing during the last year.
The main health risk facing most travellers will consist of gastrointestinal illnesses and vector-borne infections. It is therefore important to employ standard hygiene measures, and protect yourself against mosquito bites. During the cooler, winter season in Brazil (June – September) mosquito populations are reduced, lowering the risk of contracting mosquito-borne infections such as Zika virus, dengue and chikungunya. Note however that the risk of being bitten by infected mosquitos is still present, especially in the Amazon region. The Zika virus can also be transferred sexually, which increase the risk of infection.
A large zika outbreak has been ongoing in the Americas since 2014, affecting dozens of countries including Brazil. Since the disease can be sexually transfered, and the mosquitoes that transfer the disease are present in virtually all of Brazil, there is a risk of infection in all regions and cities including Rio de Janeiro.
While the symptoms from Zika are generally quite mild, there are potential complications from the virus which can be serious. This includes Microcephaly and Guillain–Barré syndrome. Microcephaly is a condition where babies are born with a much smaller head than normal, or where the head stops growing after birth.
If you are pregnant, or planning on becoming pregnant in the near future, it is recommended that you postpone any travel to Zika infected areas. Men and women that have traveled to a country with a Zika outbreak should wait eight weeks before having unprotected sex or attempting to conceive a baby, even if they show no symptoms of the disease.
During the cooler, winter season in Brazil (June – September) mosquito populations are reduced, lowering the risk of contracting mosquito-borne infections such as Zika virus, dengue and chikungunya. Note however that the risk of being bitten by infected mosquitos is still present, especially in the Amazon region.
Other Mosquito-borne diseases
Zika is not the only mosquito-borne disease you should watch out for in Brazil. There is currently a Chikungunya outbreak in South America, and the number of Dengue cases has been increasing during the last year. Dengue is in fact considered more dangerous than Zika, and over 800 people died from Dengue in Brazil last year.
Yellow fever, another disease spread by mosquitos, is also a concern in the country. Proof of Yellow fever vaccination, especially if you have recently visited or come from an infected area, may be required. Yellow fever is a risk in large parts of Brazil. However, in states and cities along the eastern coast the risk is considered low and vaccination is generally not needed, this includes Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. All travellers are still recommended to consult a doctor before traveling and to review their travel plans.
Malaria prophylaxis might also be considered when traveling to Brazil. In general, Malaria is only a risk factor in the northeastern part of Brazil, but you should review your travel plans with a doctor. There are very few cases of Malaria in the Olympic cities of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Brasília, and the surrounding regions. It can however be a risk in Manaus, which is located in the state of Amazonas.