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Rediff.com  » Sports » World Cup chit-chat: Scientists warn of dengue fever risk in Brazil

World Cup chit-chat: Scientists warn of dengue fever risk in Brazil

May 17, 2014 14:54 IST

World Cup chit-chat: Scientists warn of dengue fever risk in Brazil

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The risk of an outbreak of dengue fever during the upcoming soccer World Cup in Brazil is serious enough to warrant a high alert in three of the 12 host cities, according to an early warning system for the disease.

Scientists who developed the system said the overall threat of the disease during the month-long competition was low, but they warned that the northeastern venues of Natal, Fortaleza and Recifethere faced a serious risk.

Dengue, sometimes called breakbone fever because of the severe pain it can cause, is a viral infection transmitted by a type of mosquitoe called Aedes aegypti. It can range from a mild, flu-like illness to a potentially deadly one, which develops in around 5 percent of patients. There are no vaccines or effective treatments.

Brazil has more cases of dengue fever than anywhere else in the world. More than 7 million infections were recorded between 2000 and 2013.

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Image: Residents simulate bad service at a public hospital during a protest against the 2014 World Cup
Photographs: Sergio Moraes/Reuters

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Scientists warn of dengue fever risk in Brazil

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Rachel Lowe, from the Catalan Institute of Climate Sciences in Barcelona, who helped develop the warning system, said the possibility of an outbreak during the World Cup large enough to infect visitors and spread back to their home countries will depend on a combination of factors.

This include having large numbers of mosquitoes, a susceptible population and a high rate of mosquito-human contact, she said.

"Our aim was to take the available evidence on real-time seasonal rainfall and temperature forecasts, transmission dynamics, and social and environmental variables and combine it with the latest in mapping and mathematical modelling to produce robust risk estimates for the 12 host cities," she said.

The results, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Saturday, showed the overall risk of an outbreak is low in the host cities of Brasolia, Cuiaba, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, and Sao Paulo. But it increases in cities like Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and Manaus.

The cities with the highest risk are Natal, Fortaleza, and Recife, Lowe said.

"The ability to provide early warnings of dengue epidemics at the microregion level, three months in advance, is invaluable for reducing or containing an epidemic and will give local authorities the time to combat mosquito populations in those cities with a greater chance of dengue outbreaks," she said.

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Image: Children play a Sunday 'pelada' soccer match in front of the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia, a World Cup host city
Photographs: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

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Dynamic England could pay for lack of wisdom, says Sol

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England's dynamic World Cup squad contains one youngster too many, and could be undone by its lack of experience when the tension rises in Brazil, Sol Campbell said on Friday.

One of England's greatest defensive stalwarts, Campbell - the only man to represent England at six consecutive international tournaments - said there was always room for youngsters to be blooded at major events, but that manager Roy Hodgson had gone too far with his 23-man squad for Brazil.

"Personally I think there are too many players who are a bit too young," he said in an interview. "There are not enough of that middle group. It is a squad almost of young (players) and then a few 28-plus, 30, whatever... there is not that middle market which needs to be filled in."

One of Hodgson's more controversial choices was the selection of 18-year-old Southampton defender Luke Shaw in preference to Ashley Cole, capped 107 times by England and a former Arsenal defensive team mate of Campbell.

Campbell smiled and shook his head slowly.

"It is good to have a few youngsters, to allow them to feel what it is like at a big tournament because the pressure is immense.

"You get that first game and everyone is excited but then you get that second and that third game and the pressure really comes in, where the enormity of what you are trying to do kicks in.

"You have to be a really special kid to be able to handle that - and you need the experience around you to absorb that, and allow you to continue to be free and not to be inhibited by it."

Along with Shaw, Hodgson has included 20-year-old Everton midfielder Ross Barkley, Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling, 19, Reds midfielder Jordan Henderson, 23, Manchester United defender Phil Jones, 22, Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 20, and Jack Wilshere, 22, in a relatively callow squad.

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Image: England manager Roy Hodgson (left) speaks with Wayne Rooney
Photographs: Darren Staples/Reuters

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I won't be 100 per cent even if I make World Cup: Falcao

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Colombia striker Radamel Falcao said he will not be on top form at the World Cup finals starting next month even if he recovers sufficiently from January's knee operation to participate.

The South American nation's big hope on their return to soccer's global showpiece after a 16-year absence, Falcao has been named in coach Jose Pekerman's provisional squad but it is still not clear whether he will be able to play.

"That is the question, of course," Falcao told Spanish sports daily Marca when asked about his chances of featuring at the tournament in Brazil.

"And in the next few weeks a decision will be taken according to my situation," added the Monaco forward, who will be 32 when the next World Cup finals are played in 2018.

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Image: Radamel Falcao


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Desailly tips Argentina, Belgium to surprise

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Argentina are favourites to win the World Cup in Brazil, Belgium can reach the final and nobody expects much of England, according to former France international Marcel Desailly.

The Ghana-born 1998 World Cup winner, who won the Champions League with Marseille and AC Milan, also predicted Ivory Coast could be the surprise team and Argentina's Sergio Aguero the top scorer.

Argentina have the talent to win even if Barcelona's Lionel Messi does not play in every match, he told Laureus.com in an interview.

"I am sure collectively Argentina will be able, with Messi at top or without Messi at his best, to win the World Cup," said the Frenchman.

"Honestly I see Argentina playing without Messi," he continued. "Messi is not specially the key player of Argentina, you will see."

Desailly said champions Spain had the potential to defend the trophy, with fresh talent coming in to boost established players, but hosts Brazil could buckle under the burden of expectation.

The former Chelsea centre back saw "no expectation" for 1966 winners England.


Image: Lionel Messi
Photographs: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

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