Brazil, like most countries with a whiff of exoticism, is a breeding ground for all kinds of unsettling medical complaints, but the chances of one befalling you are so slender there is very little point worrying about it.
Sure, the echinococcus parasite could wreak havoc in your liver, but unless you’re planning on working closely with sheep in the extreme south of the country, the chances of it finding its way in are next to nil. Similarly, onchocerciasis sounds just awful: it’s an infection caused by a roundworm wriggling into your eye, resulting in blindness. But if an extended stay with the Yanomami tribes in the densely forested Amazonian mountains on the Venezuelan border isn’t on the itinerary, you can stop worrying.
Much more likely is a case of travellers’ diarrhoea, which usually comes hand in hand with at least one other symptom, such as nausea, fever or stomach cramps. It’s so common it’s practically a rite of passage (pun intended) among backpackers. Sometimes it’s caused simply by your body having a mild panic about its new diet, but usually it’s the result of a bacteria, which can be seen off with antibiotics. To increase your chances of avoiding it never drink tap water and only eat the freshest food possible. If it persists for more than three days seek medical advice.
Always speak to your GP for the most up to date advice on vaccines.
Generally speaking, however, travellers to Brazil are recommended to have jabs for Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid and Tetanus, all of which are free on the NHS, and Yellow Fever, which you’ll have to pay for. You could opt to have a Rabies vaccine, but it’s expensive and unless you’ll be exploring caves or handling animals, really not necessary. Common sense is most effective; just don’t pet animals.
Malaria is a risk in the Amazonia region, particularly in remote jungle areas which have been settled for less than five years. If you plan to visit the Amazon err on the side of caution and ask your doctor to prescribe anti-malaria pills before you visit, and once there, prevent mosquito bites by covering yourself in repellent and sleep under a net.