January 16, 2008 / 9:27 AM / 12 years ago

Millions seek shots in Brazil yellow fever scare

(Updates death toll, adds context in paragraphs 3-4)

By Isabel Versiani

BRASILIA, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Brazilian officials on Tuesday confirmed that a third person had died of yellow fever this year as millions of people, fearing a resurgence of the deadly disease, lined up at hospitals and clinics to get vaccinated.

The latest death, in the southern state of Parana, followed the death of a man in the capital Brasilia last week that prompted concerns yellow fever could swamp urban centers, from which it has been eradicated since the 1940s.

Authorities are looking into more than 20 other possible cases, including that of a Spaniard who died in the central state of Goias over the weekend.

Last year, five people died of yellow fever in Brazil.

The government has denied the country faces an epidemic of the mosquito-borne disease. But authorities are warning tourists traveling to Brazilian forests, national parks and rural areas to get vaccinated at least 10 days before their trips.

More than half of Brazil’s 27 states are partially or entirely yellow fever risk areas, including the Amazon and Brasilia. Most of the coast, which attracts the bulk of tourists, is considered free of the disease.

As fears of an outbreak mounted, the Health Ministry gave states more than 3.2 million doses of yellow fever vaccines this month, more than three times the average monthly distribution in 2007.

On Sunday, people in Sao Paulo stood in line for more than four hours at an airport health station to get shots, according to local media. In Brasilia, hospitals temporarily ran out of vaccines last week as demand surged.

Health Minister Jose Temporao said on Sunday that all suspected cases involved people with no vaccination who were in forest areas. "There is no risk of an epidemic," he said.

Symptoms of the disease include high fever, headache, vomiting and muscle pain. (Reporting by Isabel Versiani; Editing by Raymond Colitt and Xavier Briand)

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