Away from the peak of coronavirus and at the gates of winter in the southern hemisphere, Brazil is heading towards a perfect storm, with the curve of the covid-19 on the rise, the beginning of the influenza virus season (which causes the flu), end of the season dengue fever and active outbreaks of other viruses that seemed to be overcome, such as measles.
Until this Saturday (16), Brazil registered 233,142 confirmed cases of covid-19 – already exceeding Italy and Spain – and 15,633 deaths, which makes the country one of the global epicenters of the pania.
The expansion of the coronavirus, which arrived in Brazil in February, occurs amid other infectious outbreaks that concern health authorities.
The country is overcoming the peak of dengue fever – usually in April and May – transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which also carries the Zika virus, yellow fever and chikungunya.
According to the latest bulletin from the Ministry of Health, 676,928 suspected dengue cases have been reported so far, with an incidence rate of 322 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and 265 deaths.
In June, with the arrival of winter in the south, dengue cases decrease, but common flu and other respiratory diseases increase.
In 2019, Brazil, with a population of 210 million, recorded 1,122 deaths from the three types of influenza, according to official data.
This year, flu and dengue are added to covid-19 and, with that, comes the difficulty to differentiate each case, since the three viruses cause similar symptoms in the first days of the disease.
“This combination is quite explosive”, explains dr. Adriano Massuda, professor of collective health at the private studies center of the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV).
Mauricio Lacerda, a researcher at the São Paulo State Research Support Foundation (FAPESP), works at a hospital in São José do Rio Preto and guarantees that “the prospects are very bad” for the winter.
“Here at the hospital, we already have patients with the flu, covid-19 and dengue, and we have had deaths caused by the three diseases. It is a very complicated situation and one that overloads the public network,” he said.
In addition, there are still measles outbreaks in all regions of the country. So far this year, 2,910 cases of the disease have been reported, almost half of them in the state of Pará, also one of the most affected by the coronavirus, and three deaths.
“Measles is returning to Brazil, has low vaccination coverage and could be just another problem”, says Massuda.
In 2019, there were 18,200 measles cases and 15 deaths across the country, 14 of them in São Paulo, today the Brazilian epicenter of covid-19.
As hospitals’ intensive care units fill up, President Jair Bolsonaro remains involved in a “political war” against the isolation measures of regional governments and in favor of returning to normalcy.
During this crusade, two health ministers have already fallen in less than a month: Luiz Henrique Mandetta, a staunch defender of the quarantine, and Nelson Teich, who refused to recommend chloroquine to all types of coronavirus patients, as the far-right leader. want.
Both were doctors and now, with the epidemic curve of the new coronavirus in full exponential escalation, the Ministry of Health is in the hands, temporarily, of Eduardo Pazuello, general of the army with no nav experience in the area.
Lack of investment in health
The challenge for the Unified Health System (SUS), which covers the entire network of public hospitals and on which 75% of Brazilians depend, increases even more with the chronic financing problem that the network suffers.
For Massuda, the fiscal austerity policy, which started with the Michel Temer government (2016-2018) and continued with Bolsonaro, has aggravated this situation.
According to reports by human rights organizations, since a controversial budget spending ceiling was approved in late 2016, Brazil stopped investing around R $ 30 billion in the health sector (today, around R $ 5.17 billion) .
But the problem is older: according to calculations by these organizations, the lack of resources led to a reduction of 49,000 intensive care beds in the country between 2007 and 2019.
“The laboratories of the public health system are dismantled and this has not happened for six months, ten, fifteen years ago. This delayed the detection and diagnosis of the coronavirus and now hospitals will pay a huge price”, says Lacerda.