While preparing for Carnaval celebrations health officials confirmed two people have died in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from dengue fever since December, causing fears of a new epidemic of the sometimes fatal tropical disease.

    A 52-year-old man died from the from the most serious strain of the disease on December. 23, and on Thursday the municipal health secretariat confirmed that a 45-year-old woman also died from dengue on January 9.

    So far this year, 261 cases of the disease have been reported, more than the 246 cases reported in the city during the first six months of 2005, the secretariat said.

    The affected neighborhoods include upscale oceanside Barra da Tijuca and Jacarepaguá, an area of poorer residents.

    In 2002, a dengue epidemic claimed at least 100 lives and infected more than 160,000 across Brazil.

    Dengue, transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, causes severe headaches and joint pains but is usually not deadly and most sufferers recover within a week.

    The more serious hemorrhagic strain has a fatality rate of 5 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no vaccine.

    The city has ordered 500 firefighters to join health workers in spraying against mosquitos and eliminating standing water where the insects breed.

    Pravda – www.pravda.ru

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