Malaria in Brazil

Date: 1980
Owner: National Library of Medicine
Source Type: Images

This Brazilian poster warns travelers (fishermen, drivers and miners) of the risk of catching malaria in Brazil's northwestern jungles and spreading it to the heavily populated southern states, paticularly Sao Paulo (colored red). Brazilians had fought against malaria since the 1600s with quinine, a drug produced from the native cinchona tree, but the increase of international commerce in the early twentieth century brought new strains of the disease and a new immediacy to preventing its spread. It thus attracted attention (and thousands of employees and millions of dollars) from the Rockefeller Foundation.

The RF's major campaign against malaria in Brazil came in 1938, when a particularly deadly strain of that disease caused the largest malaria epidemic ever seen in the Americas (almost 100,000 cases and 14,000 deaths). To fight this outbreak, the RF used a combination of eradication and containment techniques practiced by international sanitation commissions throughout the first half of the twentieth century. As in the struggle against yellow fever, the RF targeted larval mosquitoes by spraying their breeding grounds (which included swamps and domestic walls) in order to kill as many of these vectors as possible. They also monitored all vehicles leaving the infected zone so as to ensure the disease would not spread. By 1940, every malaria bearing mosquito had been eradicated, an impressive achievement that the RF had been unable to bring about in its fight against hookworm or yellow fever. Although preventative methods are well known and treatments are inexpensive, malaria continues to kill well over one million people worldwide each year.

CITATION: Malaria pescador, caminhoneiro, garimpeiro. United States National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Order #: A030860.