An outbreak of meningitis -- an often fatal disease of the brain or spins -- is threatening Brazil, claiming new victims at a rate of six or seven a day.
GV Sao Paulo (2 shots)
GVs Crowds and traffic in streets (2 shots)
CU Headlines on newspaper ZOOM OUT TO MV newspaper stand
GV & MVs Crowds in street (4 shots)
GVs & MVs Shanty town slum area (5 shots)
SVs Children in shanty town
GV Shanty town
GV & SVs EXT Hospital (3 shots)
SV & GV Poople line up outside hospital (3 shots)
GV Crowded street with people, cars
SV Young boy seated on pavement selling wares
MV Woman and child begging
MV & GVs Traffic and skyline (3 shots)
Initials BB/0330 WLW/DW/BB/0354
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Background: An outbreak of meningitis -- an often fatal disease of the brain or spins -- is threatening Brazil, claiming new victims at a rate of six or seven a day. The outbreak is centred in Sao Paulo, the southern hemisphere's largest city, which has a population of nine million. Three states and Brasilia, the capital, have also reported outbreaks, on a lesser scale.
According to unofficial statistics the death toll throughout the country since July this year is about 250. Health authorities admit the disease is expected to continue at its present rate -- or even get worse -- for at least the next two months.
While neighboring nations like Boliva, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay have started rigid health control programmes to screen travellers from Brazil, Brazilian medical authorities have only just begun an immunisation campaign with a million doses of French vaccine. Another one million doses have been ordered from the United States, but are not expected to arrive until next month.
The outbreak includes two types of meningities, one of them said to have been 'imported' from Africa or Australia, and Brazil now has the worst meningitis problem in the world -- aggravated by poor health in the slum suburbs where sufferers have little natural resistance to combat it. Prime sufferers are children under fifteen years of ago -- they account for 70 per cent of the cases.
In Sea Paulo, where most of the deaths have occurred and where this look at the problem is focused, there are currently about 2,000 people in hospital with meningitis. Doctors, nurses and medical aides working in meningitis hospitals and areas are the first to be receiving the vaccines; schoolchildren will begin following on Tuesday (13 August).
SYNOPSIS: Under normal circumstances meningitis has a fatality rate of about ten per cent. But in the shanty towns of Sao Paulo, where the populations are undernourished, they don't have enough resistance to fight it off. And the mortality rate is much higher. The disease thrives in overcrowded, poorly-sanitised areas and those of greatest poverty, and now Brazil has the worst meningitis problem in the world. Currently, it's affected by two types of the disease -- a unique situation -- one of which is said to have been 'imported' from Africa or Australia.
Health authorities have only just begun an immunisation campaign, with one million doses of one type of vaccine imported from France. Another one million doses -- of the other type -- are to be brought in from the United States. But they won't arrive until next month. The first to receive the vaccines are doctors, nurses and medical aides working in meningitis hospitals and areas. Schoolchildren are second on the list. They were due to begin receiving theirs on Tuesday.
The worst hit are the children. Seventy per cent of the cases so far have been under fifteen years old. And doctors admit it's going to continue -- or even get worse -- for at least the next two months. It doesn't help those affected that they often don't know it. In its early stages, it feels like influenza.