For an ambulance in Brazil, call 192, or an emergency number.
Good medical care is available in the larger cities but may be difficult to find in rural areas. Medical care in Brazil may be extremely expensive.
Each Brazilian pharmacy has a licensed pharmacist. Most are well supplied.
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Before You Go
The diseases of most concern are mosquito-borne infections, including malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever, which are not a significant concern in temperate regions.
Found throughout Brazil, dengue is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, which bite preferentially during the daytime and are more common in densely populated, urban environments.
Dengue usually causes flu-like symptoms, including fever, muscle aches, headaches, nausea and vomiting, often followed by a rash. There is no vaccine or treatment for dengue fever except to take analgesics such as acetaminophen/paracetamol and to drink plenty of fluids.
Malaria is transmitted by mosquito bites, usually between dusk and dawn. The main symptoms are high spiking fevers, which may be accompanied by chills, sweats, headache, body aches, weakness, vomiting or diarrhea. Severe cases may involve the central nervous system and lead to seizures, confusion, coma and death.
Taking prophylaxis (malaria pills) is strongly recommended for forested areas within the nine states of the Amazonia region.
If you develop a fever after returning home, see a physician, as malaria symptoms may not occur for months.
Typhoid fever is caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated by a species of salmonella known as Salmonella typhi. Fever occurs in virtually all cases. Other symptoms may include headache, malaise, muscle aches, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal pain. Either diarrhea or constipation may occur.
Unless you expect to take all your meals in major hotels and restaurants, typhoid vaccine is a good idea.
Yellow fever is a life-threatening viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes in forested areas. The illness begins with flu-like symptoms, which may include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, backache, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms usually subside in a few days, but one person in six enters a second, toxic phase characterized by recurrent fever, vomiting, listlessness, jaundice, kidney failure, and hemorrhage, leading to death in up to half of the cases. There is no treatment.
The yellow-fever vaccine is strongly recommended for all travelers to Brazil, except those visiting only Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and the coastal areas south of São Luís. Proof of vaccination is no longer required from travelers arriving from a yellow fever–infected country in Africa or the Americas.
Other Infectious Diseases
Tap water in Brazilian cities such as Rio and São Paulo is generally safe to drink, but it tastes awful. In remote areas, tap water may be suspect. Many hotels and guesthouses filter their water – be sure to inquire about the status where you’re staying. Vigorous boiling for one minute is the most effective means of water purification, though you can also use a water filter, ultraviolet light (such as a steripen) or iodine pills.