The National Health Day in Brazil is a commemorative date that aims to promote health and raise public awareness about the importance of health education, among other aspects related to health.

Currently, due to the pandemic, we are going through, this date becomes even more important, after all, there are several precautions that we need to take to be free of the much-feared coronavirus, which incidentally has been causing thousands of victims all over the world.

Creation of the date

The date to celebrate National Health Day in Brazil was established by Law No. 5,352, of November 8, 1967, and according to Art. 1, the law aims to "promote health education and awaken, in the people, the awareness of the value of health".

The 5th was chosen as a way to honor Oswaldo Cruz, a Brazilian scientist, doctor, bacteriologist, epidemiologist, and sanitarist born on August 5, 1972. Oswaldo Cruz was the pioneer in the study of tropical diseases and experimental medicine in Brazil.

Oswaldo Cruz (✩ August 5, 1872, ✞ February 11, 1917)

In 1899, after studying microbiology in Paris, at the Pasteur Institute, he returned to Brazil determined to fight a series of diseases that killed thousands of people every year. The situation at that time was increasingly complicated, including in the economy. Many foreign ships refused to stop at our ports after the crew of the Italian Lombardia was almost decimated.

It was then that Oswaldo began his struggle, first by exterminating rodents in the ports of Santos and Rio de Janeiro, thus controlling the outbreak of bubonic plague, and spreading his fame.

In 1900 he founded the Federal Serotherapy Institute in the neighborhood of Manguinhos, in Rio de Janeiro, which was later renamed Oswaldo Cruz Institute, respected internationally.

In 1903, he took over as director-general of public health with the challenge of ending another epidemic, that of yellow fever. Dissatisfied with traditional sanitation methods, he decides to travel to Havana, the capital of Cuba, to study how the city had ended the outbreak of the disease. That was how he discovered that the disease was transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

Aedes Aegypti mosquito

After considerably reducing the number of people infected by the disease using spray carts to clean out mosquitoes, and isolating patients in cubicles, there was still a greater challenge: win variola, whose only remedy was the vaccine, considered at that time a novelty for Brazilians.

The repercussion of the idea of a vaccine was extremely negative among the population, as nobody wanted to put the disease virus inside their bodies. Faced with this situation, to contain the growing number of deaths, Congress passes a law making vaccination mandatory.

After that, the Brazilian health brigades began to enter the houses to vaccinate people by force, which ended up giving rise to the Revolt of the Vaccine, a popular riot that took place between 10 and 16 November 1904 in the city of Rio de Janeiro, then capital of Brazil.  In the face of intense popular pressure, then-President Rodrigues Alves repealed the vaccine law, which is no longer mandatory. However, anyone who wanted to work, study or get married needed to be vaccinated.

Over time, the number of contaminated people drops absurdly, and so people start to look for health centers voluntarily. Shortly thereafter, there was no longer any case of smallpox. Then, in 1907, Oswaldo Cruz received Germany the most important hygiene and public health award of the time, competing with more than 120 competitors from all over the world, and he was recognized as a genius even by the press, who previously criticized him.

Health care during the Coronavirus season in Brazil

The main recommendations for preventing coronavirus are strongly linked to hygiene and basic sanitation, something also related to the date we celebrate today. However, washing your hands and face frequently, making use of gel alcohol, and practicing social detachment, are not available to many residents of communities and peripheries of Brazilian cities, especially in terms of hygiene.

This happens because, in most Brazilian households, the water supply is intermittent, when in fact it exists. Unfortunately, this situation should increase the vulnerability of people who do not have access to drinking water, to the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil.

Recent research has also found the presence of the new coronavirus in sewers, and in at least two states revealing deficiencies in basic sanitation in the country, where at least 48% of people currently live without adequate water treatment. However, it has not yet been proven that there is a fecal-oral transmission of the new coronavirus, requiring a set of research to think about what this fecal-oral transmission would be like. Still, there is already research showing the virus is viable in feces.

Coronavirus prevention

We recently posted an article here on the blog with some coronavirus prevention tips for healthcare professionals and people in general working in this area. If you haven't seen it yet, we invite you to check out the post "Coronavirus in the health area: prevention tips".

Prevention must happen at all times, and everywhere, regardless of where you live or work. Here are some more tips:

  • Wash your hands frequently;
  • Use your elbow to cover your cough;
  • Avoid touching the face;
  • Maintain the essential distance considered safe;
  • Avoid as much as possible leaving the house, doing so only when necessary.

Source: FioCruz - Oswaldo Cruz Foundation