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World Cup 2014 Brazil: It's not just soccer fever, watch out for dengue!

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The World Cup competition this year in Brazil may bring more than exciting soccer action to fans - they could also be greeted by dengue fever. An early warning system for the disease has been developed by scientists for the first time. The model examines risk in 553 microregions in the South American country. 

The competition will begin on 12 June and continue through 13 July, and will be held in 12 cities around the nation. 

Researchers from the Catalan Institute of Climate Sciences in Barcelona, Spain conducted the study. They found the risk in the northeastern venues of Natal, Recife and  Fortaleza, is significant enough to warrant a high-risk warning to people traveling to the games there. Other cities were found to pose a low risk to players and fans, although uncertainty remains. 

"The possibility of a large dengue fever outbreak during the World Cup, capable of infecting visitors and spreading dengue back to their country of origin, depends on a combination of many factors, including large numbers of mosquitoes, a susceptible population, and a high rate of mosquito-human contact," Rachel Lowe, lead author of the article announcing the research, said

Another factor that could affect transmission of dengue at the World Cup is weather. The virus becomes more common after months of heavy rain. 

Dengue is caused by a virus, transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The disease can be dangerous, or even fatal in some cases. Up to 400 million people a year are infected by the virus. There are no known treatments or cures for the illness, which is more common in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. 

"When infected, early recognition and prompt supportive treatment can substantially lower the risk of medical complications and death," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote on a Web page profiling the disease. 

More than a million fans are expected to attend the games, which have been played since 1930. Researchers believe that by creating virtual models of how the virus could spread, they may be able to prevent further transmission of the fever worldwide. 

"The ability to provide early warnings of dengue epidemics at the microregion level, three months in advance, is invaluable for reducing or containing an epidemic and will give local authorities the time to combat mosquito populations in those cities with a greater chance of dengue outbreaks," Lowe told reporters. 

Investigation of the risk of dengue fever during the 2014 World Cup was published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 

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