Rômulo D’Castro – from Cenarium
ALTAMIRA (PA) – The death of a 55 year old motorcycle taxi driver, in Santarém, Western Pará, made the Health authorities turn on the red light to the Haff Syndrome, known as “black urine”. Genivaldo Cardoso de Azevedo became ill and two days later, last Tuesday, the 7th, he died in the city hospital. Family members told the doctors that Genivaldo had eaten fish and, as his symptoms were similar to the disease, the team collected genetic material and sent it for testing.
This is the only death in Pará that may have been caused by the disease since the beginning of the outbreak. Santarém has, according to the Municipal Health Department, 9 of the 17 suspected cases registered by the Pará authorities. The first cases in the North region appeared in August, in Amazonas. In Manaus and Itacoatiara there were more than 50 cases, according to the Health Surveillance Foundation (FVS-AM). In Itacoatiara, a woman died.
As it is a large consumer of fish from Amazonas, and responsible for a significant part of the species coming from the neighboring state, Pará recommended that the municipalities review their purchase of Amazonian fish. The impact of the disease was immediate. The sale of fish such as tambaqui plummeted by 90% and made many people from Pará rethink the consumption of one of the most consumed foods in the region. The journalist Valdiney Ferreira, who lives in Oriximiná, completely suspended his consumption. “The ones that are on the prohibited list and even the others I stopped buying for fear of contamination. I still don’t have the security of eating fish again”, he said.
Vitória do Xingu, in the southwest of Pará, was the first municipality in the region to forbid the entrance of fish from the Amazon and Solimões basins. For the Secretary of Health, Rosely Braga, the decision was in the right time. “Vitória [do Xingu] is the main entrance through the river to other municipalities here in the Xingu. We thought it was better to ban fish from the Amazon because we buy a lot of fish from there. It is a way to protect our region”, he defended.
A researcher from the Federal University of Pará, specialized in infectious diseases, Denis Ferreira explained that sanitary barriers such as those imposed in Vitória do Xingu, Altamira (Southwest), Oriximiná, Santarém and Juruti (West) are necessary measures in a moment that little is known about the disease. He reinforced that “the prohibition of consumption is only valid for species from the Amazon and Solimões basins. The fish caught in the Xingu and other regions that are not bathed by the two rivers are safe and the population can calmly eat tambaqui, pirapitinga and pacu caught here”.
The veterinarian specialized in Sanitary Health, Jefferson Costa, called attention to the moment when we all need to follow technical guidelines. “Just like in the case of Coronavirus, you can’t relax. Even though it is a disease infinitely less serious than Covid-19, the concern should not be less because the cases can multiply and result in chaos for our health”, warns the veterinarian.
Haff’s syndrome, the “black urine” is a disease caused by a toxin that develops in some species such as tambaqui, pacu, and pirapitinga. In the North region, the conditions of the Amazon and Solimões basins “facilitate” the occurrences. The first records are from the mid-20s, in Russia, decades later, the disease was identified in countries like China and the United States. In Brazil, an outbreak in 2017 had more than 70 cases in Bahia. “Outbreaks can occur from time to time. It is an almost natural behavior of the disease,” explains Professor Denis Ferreira.
It can appear up to 24 hours after ingesting fish, the main symptoms of “black urine” are: sudden muscle stiffness; muscle pain, especially in the shoulders and neck; loss of strength in the arms; and coffee-colored urine, characteristic that gave the disease its popular name. The color of the urine, according to the veterinarian and sanitarian Jefferson Costa, is the result of deficient kidney function, the main organs affected by the syndrome.
Prevention and treatment
Water, lots of water. There is no specific method to prevent the disease, but hydration, recommended for any person, in times of Haff Syndrome is even more recommended. When presenting any of the symptoms, it is recommended to seek medical attention immediately. The treatment is done through medication prescribed by the professional.