Foreign nationals are entitled to unforeseen emergency medical treatment in Brazilian public hospitals. However, they are not obliged to offer treatment for existing illnesses or care after the patient has been stabilized.
Public hospitals in Brazil, especially in major cities, tend to be crowded. Private hospitals will not accept you unless you can present evidence of sufficient funds or insurance.
Dengue Fever is endemic to Latin America and the Caribbean and can occur throughout the year. In 2007 there was a marked increase in the number of reported cases of dengue across the region. There is currently a Dengue Fever epidemic in Brazil; 480,000 cases have been officially recorded between January and October 2007, which is a 50% increase on 2006. The worst affected region is the State of Mato Grosso do Sul. The Government is to launch a national campaign to try and contain the problem. There is no vaccine to prevent dengue fever, which has severe flu-like symptoms and can sometimes be fatal (Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever). Joao Pessoa has one of the lowest indices of Dengue in the whole of Brazil and the local council are very rigourous in their campaigns.
Malaria is a risk in some parts of Brazil and Rotavirus is common all over Brazil. There have also been some cases of cholera in the North East of Brazil. Yellow fever also occurs in large areas of North and West Brazil.
The incidence of some other diseases, previously confined mainly to rural areas, has increased substantially in poorer urban areas in recent years. They include Chagas disease, leishmania infection, amoebiasis, and leptospirosis. Symptoms may include persistent fever and/or diarrhoea. However, these diseases are unlikely to be encountered in modern hotels in the main tourist areas.
Tap water is heavily treated giving it an unpleasant chemical taste, but is safe to drink in most urban areas providing it has been passed through a charcoal filter system; you should check with your hotel/restaurant management before drinking tap water. You should drink bottled water in more remote areas, as filtered water may be unsafe.
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.