New research give guidelines for risk of dengue outbreaks

A study by an international team of researchers has provided public health officials with information that will help decrease the risk of dengue, a life-threatening mosquito-borne viral disease that is now one of the fastest spreading tropical diseases globally.

Dengue has sickened thousands in Costa Rica this year and caused one direct death and others indirectly.

The effort was led by Anna M. Stewart Ibarra of the Center for Global Health and Translational Science at the State University of New York’s Upstate Medical University,  The team discovered that certain household risk factors, combined with changes in rainfall and minimum temperature, could be used to predict the presence and abundance of the mosquito that transmits dengue fever.

This study was published last week in PLOS ONE, an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication reporting on primary research from different scientific disciplines.

Dengue fever is a public health threat throughout the tropics and now emerging as a threat in Florida and along the Texas border. It is a viral disease transmitted to people primarily by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, a mosquito that reproduces in containers with standing water in and around people’s homes. The virus cannot be spread directly from person-to-person. There is no vaccine or drug currently available, although dengue vaccine trials are going on.

Until a vaccine becomes available, mosquito control is the only way to control the spread of the disease. “The findings from this study will help public health officials develop
mosquito control campaigns that target high-risk households and mosquito habitats in each season,” said Dr. Stewart Ibarra.

The team conducted this study from 2010 to 2011 in the city of Machala, located in southern coastal Ecuador, an area where dengue is prevalent.  Team members monitored mosquito populations and conducted household surveys to identify dengue  risk factors, such as water storage practices, access to piped water and knowledge and perceptions of dengue. They also looked at local climate factors, since previous studies by Dr. Stewart Ibarra and colleagues had demonstrated that climate and sea surface temperature influence dengue transmission in this region.

“Our findings can help reduce the burden of dengue in this particular region by conducting focused interventions that target high-risk households and containers in each season and by developing predictive models using climate and non-climate information,” said Dr. Stewart Ibarra.

The results from this study also have contributed to the development of a multi-year investigation of climate, the dengue virus, and Aedes aegypti in the same region.

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