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What Are The Health Risks For Expats In Brazil?

Brazil has good medical care, especially in the larger cities, where most expats live. Healthcare may be slightly expensive and it is advisable to take out comprehensive health insurance cover upon arrival in the country. Pharmacies are located throughout Brazil and every pharmacy has a licensed pharmacist. Although Brazil is mostly safe for expats and travellers when it comes to medical risks, there are some health concerns that expats should be aware of.

Yellow fever

This infectious disease is a viral infection that is spread by mosquitoes. It is prevalent mostly in forested areas and causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, chills, nausea and appetite loss.These initial symptoms usually go away in a few days, but some people enter a second phase of the infection where more serious complications like jaundice, recurring fever and kidney failure may occur. Travellers are advised to take the yellow fever vaccine. Individuals travelling from countries where yellow fever is prevalent, such as Africa or the Americas, are required to have proof of vaccination. It is, however, not necessary for those who will be travelling only to Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and the region south of Sao Luis.


Malaria can be caused by mosquito bites and there is a high risk of transmission in the period from dusk to dawn. It can lead to fever, sweats, chills, body ache and weakness. Malaria prophylaxis is the preventive treatment for malaria and it is recommended for those visiting the forested areas in the Amazonia region. In case, symptoms of malaria occur upon returning to your home country, it is essential to consult a doctor. Remember that symptoms of malaria may not show up immediately.


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The Aedes mosquito transmits dengue. It is more common in highly populated urban areas and these mosquitoes usually bite during the day. Symptoms include muscle aches, fever, nausea, headaches, and a skin rash usually follows. There is no preventive medication for dengue and the only treatment is analgesics and intake of plenty of fluids.


This disease occurs due to intake of food and water that has been contaminated by the salmonella bacteria. Fever is the hallmark symptom of Typhoid. There may also be other symptoms such as muscle aches, loss of appetite, nausea and stomach pain. There is a vaccine available for Typhoid. It is also a good idea to exercise caution when eating out.


This is a parasitic infection that spreads through contact with fresh water. A few days after the infection, a skin rash or itching may develop. In a month or two, other symptoms like coughing, muscle aches, fever and chills may occur. These parasites are present in fresh water lakes, rivers and streams, and therefore it is advisable to avoid swimming or paddling in these locations.


When using fresh water for showering, ensure that it is heated to 150 degrees F for a minimum of five minutes or stored in a tank for at least three days. Drying yourself after exposure to contaminated water may reduce the risk of Schistosomiasis, but it does not prevent it. It is considered safe to swim in chlorinated swimming pools.

Avoid drinking tap water that has not been boiled, filtered or disinfected. Beverages containing ice may contain contaminants and should also be avoided. When it comes to food, refrain from eating any cooked food that has been left at room temperature or fruits and vegetables that have not been peeled or cooked. Unpasteurized milk can also be harmful, so avoid any foods like ice cream that have been made from it. Raw or improperly cooked food is another big health risk. Barracuda and other fish such as sea bass and red snapper may contain bio-toxins, so exercise caution when eating these.

To protect again insect bites and ticks, wear clothing that properly covers the body. If you live in an area that has many mosquitoes, keep the windows closed if there are not covered by a screen.

It is recommended that you see your doctor at least six weeks before leaving for Brazil. Based on your health records, your doctor can advise you on the required vaccinations and if you need to take any special health precautions.

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