Dengue FeverAccording to the World Health Organization, dengue fever is one of the ten major global health threats of 2019. The mosquito-borne illness results in flu-like symptoms that can kill up to 20 percent of those infected. Approximately 390 million cases of dengue fever are reported each year across 100 different countries, although, many cases go unreported. Cases of dengue fever have also increased 30 times in the last 50 years, meaning that today, 40 percent of the world’s population is at risk of contracting the disease.

Why the Increase?

While dengue fever used to be concentrated in countries with extreme tropical climates, such as India and Bangladesh, the disease is now prevalent in countries that have more temperate climates, such as Nepal. With higher than average temperatures, rainy seasons are lasting longer which creates the perfect environment for the Aedes mosquito, the carrier of the disease. Unfortunately, the geographic regions that the Aedes mosquito inhabits coincide with low and middle-income countries. Many of these countries do not have sufficient health care systems to cope with this major health issue. Therefore, the effects of dengue are even more severe.

Protection from Mosquitoes

The World Health Organization is leading efforts to reverse the increasing threat of dengue fever. One common tactic used is immunization. The first immunization for dengue fever was approved in 20 countries in 2015. However, follow-up data from 2017 showed that the vaccine was actually harmful to those who had never contracted the disease, putting people at a higher risk of more severe cases of dengue. Now, the vaccination is recommended as a measure for those who have already been affected.

In addition to immunization, people can inhibit the Aedes mosquito’s survival and procreation by properly disposing of human waste, and not leaving out any stagnate, uncovered containers of water, as mosquitoes thrive and lay eggs in both environments. It is also advised to use spray insecticide to repel bugs and invest in screened windows and sleeping nets for protection in homes.

Combatting the Threat

The World Health Organization is partnering with local organizations and governments in affected countries to ensure that the number of deaths caused by dengue fever will decrease by 50 percent in 2020. In order to reach this goal, however, additional funding and research are needed so that the scope of dengue fever is properly understood. Health care providers also need the training and resources to properly address the issue and detect the disease in its early stages as well. If dengue fever is diagnosed before the symptoms become too severe, mortality rates of the disease become much more optimistic.

 

Madeline Lyons
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Palau
Palau is a small country in the Pacific Ocean that attracts tourists from all over the world with its amazing scuba diving sites, stunning rock islands and gorgeous beaches. With a population of about 21,000 people, Palau is continuously working towards improving life on the island by bringing focus to some of its biggest issues such as lack of funding for non-communicable diseases, and drug and alcohol addiction in children and adults. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Palau.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Palau

  1. According to the CIA World Fact Book, life expectancy in Palau was 70.4 years for men and 77 years for women as of 2018. The life expectancy has stayed relatively the same over the years with only a two-year decrease since 1995.
  2. The leading causes of death in Palau are non-communicable diseases (NCD) with cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes being the four main causes of death in the country. Because of the lack of funds going into the prevention and treatment of these diseases, President Tommy Remengesau Jr. signed a law in 2016 to set 10 percent of the revenue raised from alcohol and tobacco taxes aside to finance NCD prevention.
  3. Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease which can cause high fever, headache, vomiting and skin rash. Palau is no stranger to this disease and the Ministry of Health has been educating and bringing awareness to the public ever since its biggest outbreak in 2008. In December 2018, the Ministry of Health reported its first-ever cases of the Dengue Serotype 3 virus which the small country had never seen. It immediately issued an alert and urged the public to search for and kill mosquitos in and around homes, wear clothes to cover skin and use bug repellant. Fortunately, the country did not report any deaths from dengue fever and it had only 250 cases as of June 2019.
  4. Both children and adults in Palau have a dependence on drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. The country has created many educational efforts and protective laws for children, but despite these efforts, 70 percent of children chew on a drug called betel nut. The betel nut which has been a part of cultural practices since the 1970s is a popular and accessible drug on the island. According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, ingesting this drug can lead to oral cancers, stomach ulcers and heart disease when used regularly.
  5. Estimates determined the infant mortality to be 14 deaths to 1,000 live births as of 2015 in Palau, which was a 55 percent decrease since 1990.  Palau’s National Health Profile explains that 75 percent of expecting mothers used betel nut and tobacco during their pregnancy between 2007 and 2013. These were the main causes of the high rate of preterm complications that resulted in deaths of newborns. Along with these two risks, the health profile also highlights that overweight and obese mothers had a higher risk of preterm delivery as well. Because health services have become more available, mothers are now receiving education and given prenatal care preventing the infant mortality rate from going up.
  6. Health care and health services are becoming accessible to more and more families and children which has caused the mortality rate to decrease on the islands. Obesity still remains a problem for 24 percent of children, though. Many children do not have any knowledge of good eating habits and do not participate in any physical activity. Humanium reports that only 10 percent of children are eating fruits and vegetables in Palau.
  7. Palau reportedly has approximately 300 children with special needs on the registry with the Health Department but only around 189 are receiving special education services. Most special needs kids will receive health care, education and social services up until the age of 21. Once they reach 21 years of age there are not many resources on the small country to assist them in adapting and transitioning into the adult life which leaves these families without any aid.
  8. Although crime rates are low in Palau, emergencies do happen and getting help from police officers or medical personnel can be very difficult. The ability for police officers and ambulances to respond to crimes and medical emergencies can sometimes be very limited because of the lack of essential equipment, response vehicles and roads on the island. Ambulances often do not have proper equipment or staff. In rural areas receiving ambulance services is much more limited.
  9. Pollution affects 25 percent of the available drinking water in Palau. Groundwater pollution is caused by poorly maintained septic tanks and saltwater intrusion while land-based pollution, gasoline and oil from motors and ships impact coastal waters. Due to the ongoing development of the country, further pollution from sewages, chemicals and oil spills will be unavoidable if people do not control them which could greatly affect the country’s population.
  10. Seventy-one percent of the population in Palau live in urban areas on the islands of Koror and Airai. People without land rights must lease houses from the government which are usually one or two-story homes made of wood or cement with tin roofs. Living conditions are improving, however, due to the work of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the National Development Bank of Palau. They have been working together to create homes which will use less energy and reduce dependence on petroleum fuels that are imported to the island every year. Although this is an ongoing project having built only 60 homes, the improvement in living conditions will not only help the environment but also the people of this small country.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Palau show progress within its 340 islands. Government officials are putting many efforts into fixing the issues that Palau and its people are facing. By creating programs to help aid the disabled, providing education on health issues, passing laws to receive the funds necessary for treatments and starting new projects such as the building of energy-efficient homes, Palau is on the right track to bettering life on its islands.

– Jannette Aguirre
Photo: Flickr

dengue fever in the Philippines

The Philippines Department of Health declared a national dengue fever epidemic. The southeast Asian nation is experiencing one of the worst outbreaks of the disease in years with over 160,000 cases this year. This is an increase of 97 percent from this time last year. The surge in cases has caused over 600 deaths, already doubling the amount from 2018.

What is Dengue Fever?

Dengue fever is spread by the Aedes mosquito that lives primarily in tropical and subtropical regions. Once bitten, it takes four to seven days before flu-like symptoms set in. These symptoms include headaches, joint and muscle pain, rash and fever. If left untreated, some severe cases can lead to dengue hemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome, which can lead to death. The median age of those infected in the Philippines is 12 years old. Most of the deaths in the Philippines are children between the ages of 5 and 9.

There is no known cure for dengue fever, once infected a person can only manage the symptoms until they dissipate. This is done by keeping a patient well hydrated with IV fluids and the use of pain medications with acetaminophen. Dengvaxia, a vaccine for dengue was discovered in 2016 but it is currently not licensed in the Philippines.

Philippines Hospitals Overwhelmed

With 1800 hospitals taking care of a population of over 108 million people, the Philippines struggles to deal with the rising cases of dengue fever. Of those hospitals in the Philippines, there are only 19 in the five regions that have been hit hardest by the epidemic. Southern Tagalog, Bicol Region, Western Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula and Northern Mindanao are past the epidemic threshold. West Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula and Bicol Region are also three of the poorest regions in the Philippines and struggle with the cost of care for its citizens.

Over the past 50 years, dengue fever cases rose, according to the World Health Organization(WHO). In the past five years, there have been over 200,000 cases of dengue fever in the Philippines. This includes just over 1000 deaths in that same time period. The country may exceed these numbers by the end of 2019 alone.

Global Forces Rally Against Epidemic

The European Union donated 100,000 euros in humanitarian aid to help treat those already infected and to help with prevention. These funds will help the Philippines Red Cross to provide emergency medical units, nurses and wards at hospitals specific to treating dengue fever in the Philippines. It is expected that this funding will benefit 300,000 people that are living in some of the poorer and infected areas.

The WHO and the government of the Philippines are currently taking the steps needed to prevent the increase in fatal cases. The government also tries to educate its citizens on what they need to do to prevent the Aedes mosquito from continuing to breed and how they can protect themselves. This includes cleanup efforts that help reduce the stagnant water areas where the mosquitoes breed. The WHO advised the people to wear insect repellant and long sleeve pants and shirts at all times. The organization also recommends fitting every bed and crib with mosquito nets to provide protection while sleeping.

Despite the ever-growing danger imposed, the fight continues around the world to protect and prevent dengue fever in the Philippines. Simple measures can be put into place at home and around communities that can minimize those who are infected and provide a safe and healthy environment.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

Dengue Fever in Burkina Faso
Dengue is a viral infection transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti and Aedes Albopictus female mosquitos. There are four different types of the virus currently known as DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3 and DENV-4.

Almost half of the people infected with dengue exhibit no specific symptoms, especially since the virus causes flu-like symptoms such as high fever and muscle pain. When left untreated, these symptoms progress to the deadly dengue hemorrhagic fever and cause vomiting, abdominal pain, uncontrolled bleeding, convulsions and circulatory system failure. Dengue is diagnosed by serological or molecular tests. Early and accurate diagnosis is crucial to saving lives and preventing the progression of the infection.

As in most tropical regions with prolonged rainy seasons, the climate of Burkina Faso makes it an optimal breeding ground for mosquitos. Dengue is considered an endemic illness. In recent years, the country has faced outbreaks of this disease in 2016 and 2017. In 2016, there were almost 2,000 suspected cases with 86 percent of cases concentrated in the central region of the country. In the 2017 outbreak, the number of suspected cases jumped to almost 7,000 with 64 percent of infections, again, concentrated in the central region.

Urbanization and Dengue

The central region of Burkina Faso includes the capital city of Ouagadougou. Ouagadougou’s rapid urbanization over the last 30 years has contributed to increased cases of dengue fever in Burkina Faso. From 2000 to 2010, the city’s population grew from 800,000 to 1.9 million. This growth is expected to rise by 81 percent to a staggering population of 3.4 million by 2020.

Increased migration to Ouagadougou from rural regions and nearby countries led to spontaneous settlements uncontrolled by the authorities. Between 2004 and 2009, unplanned residential areas grew by 60 percent. These settlements are prone to overcrowding and poor sanitation infrastructure. Stagnant water from the rainy season also makes the settlements more susceptible to mosquitos and dengue.

Response to Dengue Outbreaks

During both the 2016 and 2017 outbreaks, the Burkina Faso Ministry of Health declared a state of emergency that allowed for assistance from The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) and World Health Organization (WHO).

In 2016, ALIMA provided 2,100 Rapid Diagnosis Tests (RDTs) to help doctors to accurately diagnose dengue and begin surveillance of the outbreak. The more widespread outbreak of 2017 required a greater response from WHO. The organization provided 15,000 RDTs and 1,500 insecticidal nets to hospitals. WHO also trained 5,500 community volunteers that worked to destroy mosquito-breeding sites in Ouagadougou. These interventions allowed for the slow decline of cases and the continued spread of dengue infections.

Future of Dengue in Burkina Faso

In both outbreak years mentioned above, the financial burden of the outbreak response was shouldered by WHO and ALIMA. The Ministry of Health has identified the importance of strengthening the health care surveillance system so that there are early warnings of future outbreaks of dengue fever in the country.

Vector control methods such as the destruction of mosquito-breeding sites and proper sanitation infrastructure in susceptible areas of Ouagadougou are necessary to prevent continued outbreaks. Finally, early and accurate diagnosis of dengue will save lives through timely treatment and medication.

These targets are the core focus of the Integrated Research Program for the Control of Dengue Fever in Burkina Faso. This program began in 2015 as a five-year collaborative research effort between medical schools in Ouagadougou and Japan. The Japanese Agency for Medical Research and Development plans to invest more than $650 thousand each year to reach the targets by 2020.

As of September 2017, the research program has developed a new detection device that allows for easy virus inspection of mosquitos. This technology will assist detect potential infections and avoid outbreaks. The program is currently working to develop a strategy to limit the replication of dengue in mosquitos which will also help to prevent outbreaks.

The dengue fever has been a very serious problem in Burkina Faso in the past years. The joint effort of various nongovernmental organizations and the country’s government has helped eliminate the crisis in the past two virus outbreaks. This effort will help change the future of dengue fever in Burkina Faso and allow the country to equip itself to properly respond to any new potential outbreaks.

– Chinanu Chi-Ukpai
Photo: Flickr

Dengue Track: How Mapping the Spread of Disease May Help to Stop It
Dengue is a notoriously malicious mosquito-borne virus that has seen an uptick in recent decades with the expansion of urban environments. But a new tool called Dengue Track is trying to change that.

Dengue fever causes flu-like symptoms, minor bleeding and a characteristic full-body rash. The disease used to be confined primarily to tropical regions, but the World Health Organization estimates that about half the global population is now at risk. It is rarely fatal but nonetheless constitutes a leading cause of illness and death among children in some developing countries. Though a vaccine has been developed, its use has only been approved in three countries so far, and it is not yet widely available anywhere.

Dengue is a disease that is uncommonly hard to fight. Because it has an incubation period of four to 10 days, mosquitos can be spreading it in an area for weeks before officials start to realize that they have an epidemic on their hands. What’s more, as globalization intensifies and people and goods travel more broadly than ever, it’s nearly impossible to keep infections localized or to judge where they might develop next.

Illnesses that, like dengue, are transmitted by blood-sucking insects are called “vector-borne” diseases, and when vaccines are not available, the only way to protect human populations is through methods known collectively as “vector control.” These include strategies for reducing the insects’ breeding areas, creating tools like nets to keep them away from vulnerable people or killing them with pesticides.

Vector control, however, is most effective when the movement of the disease can be plotted on a map. The trouble is that dengue, which is most prevalent in developing countries around the equator, is dramatically underdiagnosed and underreported, and systems to share what little information there is are inefficient, unstandardized, or nonexistent.

Dengue Track, a crowdsourced tool that tries to map the epidemiology of the disease, is an initiative from an organization called Break Dengue. Drawing information from cell phone conversations, social media, and an online chat system, it plots cases of the illness across the globe to try to predict where it may surface next.

It is a low-cost method that relies on tools common in developing countries, where only one-third have access to the internet but over 95 percent own mobile phones. This means that it is particularly well-suited to places where the national health system does not have the ability to track outbreaks itself.

“Thousands of lives are lost every year in developing countries for failing to detect epidemics early because of the lack of real-time data on reported cases,” said Lakshminarayanan Subramanian, a professor at New York University who helped to develop Dengue Track. This app might prove a useful model for identifying such epidemics early in the game and taking the appropriate steps to head them off.

Madeleine Read

Photo: Flickr

Dengue Epidemic in India
The dengue epidemic in India is a reoccurring plight — new hoards of mosquitoes hatch during the wet monsoon season. These insects carry a number of diseases that citizens have been unable to protect themselves against. From this yearly mosquito infestation, dengue is one of the most commonly contracted. It manifests as a harsh influenza, but can quickly turn into severe dengue, and will sometimes result in death.

There are four different strains of dengue, meaning that one individual can get dengue up to four times before building an immunity to each strain. That is only if the person makes it that far; every time an individual contracts more than one strain, there is a greater risk of severe dengue.

The problem with eliminating mosquito-borne diseases is that the insect is highly adaptable. It thrives wherever water is available; eggs can lay dormant for more than a year and hatch immediately when exposed to water. Mosquitos themselves are evolving as well, and have begun to prefer the taste of human blood more than the blood of other mammals. They are also becoming intelligent enough to hide in homes during the day to bite unsuspecting sleepers at night.

The World Health Organization (WHO) claims that the best way to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses is to kill mosquitos in all stages of life. As it stands now, citizens in India can only stunt the spread of the dengue epidemic through fogging, disposing of standing water and maintaining a clean living space.

However, citizens alone cannot destroy all mosquitoes. Hence, the best tactic to approach the dengue epidemic in India is to supplement individual actions with other means of mosquito prevention. Thankfully, the elimination of mosquitos is a mission that researchers are working hard to accomplish.

The International Atomic Agency has been able to suppress insect populations extensively in other areas by sterilizing male mosquitos with low doses of radiation, making the eggs they fertilize unviable. Similarly, there has been notable success with a new form of mosquito suppression that uses the Wachovia bacteria, a bacteria that does not infect humans, but prevents eggs fertilized through infected males from hatching.

Surprisingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not believe that efforts to suppress mosquito population on a large scale will likely be realized through the sterilization of male mosquitos. This is because large numbers of infected mosquitos need to be affected to properly address the problem. However, when it comes to those who have made little to no headway in stemming the growing mosquito population, even some relief is welcome.

As Ila Patnik of the Indian Express points out, the burden to control the mosquito population cannot rest on citizens alone. Suppressing the mosquito population may take time, but at least it is a means to an end. Mosquito sterilization is a worthy course of action in decreasing the dengue epidemic in India, at least until a more effective solution presents itself and more people have access to the newly tested dengue vaccines.

Amy Whitman

Photo: Pixabay

Dengue FeverCountries in tropical climates, including Mexico and the Philippines, have started to approve the usage of a vaccine to prevent dengue fever.

Dengue fever is the most rapidly spreading mosquito-borne virus in the world today. The virus is currently present in 150 countries and over 390 million people are infected per year, with many cases being under-reported.

According to the World Health Organization, half of the world’s population is in danger of developing dengue fever. Patients inflicted with the disease are typically advised to rest, drink plenty of fluids and consume paracetamol, a widely used over-the-counter medicine to reduce fever.

Several tropical countries recently announced their plans to help prevent and reduce the number of dengue fever cases, with the world’s first dengue vaccine. Dengvaxia, a live attenuated version of the virus, will combat all four strains of the disease. The drug is scheduled to go on the market this month.

In the Philippines, health officials have started filing orders for Dengvaxia, aiming to bring the vaccine into its national market as soon as possible. Janette L. Garin, the Secretary of the Philippines Department of Health told GMA News that her country “is the only [location] where three phases of the clinical trial were done… it’s a reflection of how good our researchers are.”

Garin stated that officials will initially administer vaccines to students from eight to 10 years old, since they are the most likely candidates to fall victim to dengue fever. The vaccine is also less effective and more unpredictable in older patients.

“We don’t recommend it to [elder individuals] because there would be other interactions… That is why we want to play on the safe side,” Garin explained.

John Gilmore

Sources: GMA Network, WHO, Impatient Optimists, News Medical
Photo: Scientific American

Fever Outbreak
Delhi, the capital of India, is going through the largest case of dengue fever in five years. There have been more than 1,800 cases of dengue fever recorded in 2015. Nearly 200 more patients were diagnosed with dengue fever than the 1,695 patients in 2010.

Proper treatment reduces the mortality rate of dengue fever to 1 percent, however there is more than a 20 percent mortality rate for untreated dengue fever. Nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of contracting the disease.

There are nearly 25 million people residing in New Delhi and the high population has caused an overflow in hospitals. Although government hospitals are not permitted to refuse dengue patients, the influx of patients has proven to be too much for the public health system to handle.

Patients are sharing beds and queues for dengue fever screenings are out the door. The government has had to issue a temporary three-month registration to 48 new private hospitals and nursing homes to accommodate the overwhelming increase of patients.

It is in this kind of crisis that a strong public healthcare system is shown to be of value. The World Health Organization recommends that there by at least five hospital beds for every 1,000 people but Delhi has a little more than half the number of recommended beds.

With one of the lowest rates of government spending on healthcare, only roughly 1 percent of India’s Gross Domestic Product goes toward public healthcare. Private hospitals are catered to the middle and high class, leaving the public government hospitals overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded.

More than ten people have died from the dengue fever outbreak in Delhi. It is hoped that this recent outbreak will cause for serious reorder of the healthcare system.

Iona Brannon

Sources: BBC, CNN, NDTV, WHO, World Bank
Photo: Live Mint

dengue_fever
Malaysia is overwhelmed with its never before seen dengue fever outbreak. According to the Health Ministry, there have been more than 40,000 cases and 201 deaths so far. The deaths have increased from 215 in 2014 total, 92 in 2013, and 35 in 2012.

In six months, deaths increased 100 percent from last year between January and June 6, with 144 deaths compared to 72 last year. From the 21st week to the 22nd week, the numbers of cases increased by 8 percent.

Dengue fever is spread by the female Aedes mosquito, which can lay up to 400 eggs per week and needs very little water to breed. The mosquito typically bites in the morning or at dusk with initial symptoms feeling like the flu.

Those infected realize it’s dengue from the exhaustion, fever and joint pains they get. In the worst-case scenario, victims develop hemorrhagic fever, which can lead to death.

There is growing concern that the virus is changing and becoming more deadly with changes in symptoms and repeat infections. The deputy director general of Health at the Ministry says, “There’s always a chance virus may change.” He does find it strange that the new symptoms are liver failure, meningitis and brain infection.

There is currently no cure for dengue. The most that can be done to treat it is the platelet count with a saline drip.

The disease is common in many Asian countries and costs the economy about $2 billion annually, excluding the cost of fogging and other methods used to kill the Aedes mosquito.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dengue cases have increased 30-fold in the last half century, and half of the world population is at risk.

Citizens are combatting the disease with leaflets and insecticide. Citizens like Kau Siew Yoon, a retired librarian, are volunteering with their local anti-dengue squad.

At the government level, workers are sent out to spray fog around the neighborhoods affected and doctors are given rapid detection kits as soon as a doctor reports a case to the Health Ministry.

Doctor Lam Sait Kit, who has been studying dengue for 40 years, doesn’t think fog is very effective, and believes vaccines could prevent outbreaks. Given that WHO is aiming to decrease dengue by 25 percent and its mortality by at least half by 2020, many companies are looking to develop a vaccine.

The most progress has been made by the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Pasteur, which finished its third phase of clinical trials for a vaccine it has been working on for more than 20 years.

The trials were done on thousands of children in Asia and South America, and the vaccine shows protection against all four types of fever with varying results. Those ages 9-16 showed an 80 percent reduction in hospitalization and a 93 percent reduction in the disease becoming more severe.

Malaysia is working with WHO in analyzing the vaccine data. Baptiste De Clarens, GM for Sanofi-Pasteur in Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore, believes a vaccine isn’t the only solution, with a need for vector control and public awareness.

Given the alarming numbers of this outbreak, the focus needs to be on reducing the current cases and finding solutions that prevent the disease, such as an educational campaign to fight against it.

Paula Acevedo

Sources: IRIN, The Malaysian Insider
Photo: WN.com

Dengue
After decades of searching, scientists may have finally found a vaccine for dengue, one of the developing world’s most feared infectious diseases.

Researchers released a new report confirming the efficacy of the vaccine after the conclusion of a study lasting four years and involving over 20,000 school-aged children in Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Honduras. The study has proven the new drug to be overwhelmingly effective, and both scientists and doctors around the world are celebrating this monumental achievement. The efficacy of the vaccine against severe dengue was 95.5 percent.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection that affects nearly 400 million people annually. It is a leading cause of serious illness and death among children in many Latin American and Asian countries, and has been spreading violently throughout the developing world since the late 1950s.

The absence of a dependable treatment for the disease has made dengue a particularly terrifying illness in the global south. The debilitating muscle and joint pains associated with cases of severe dengue have earned the disease its nickname, ‘break-bone fever’. Infected individuals can also suffer crippling headaches, nausea, vomiting and a painful rash across the back and chest. Nearly 500,000 people, most of them children, die from the disease each year.

Initial news of the drug’s potential broke in late 2011, when French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur announced plans to release the new antiviral medication by mid-2015. Since that time, research teams have been working tirelessly in many countries spanning both Asia and Latin America, where the disease is most prevalent. Meticulously testing patients, administering vaccinations and recording their findings, scientists have emerged from the study with new certainty in the drug’s effectiveness.

Relaying the good news on Jan. 8, Sanofi Pasteur reported the overall efficacy of the drug to be 60.8 percent for children between the ages of nine and 16 who received three doses of the vaccine over a 12-month period. Furthermore, the study confirmed 80.3 percent reduction in the risk of hospitalization for dengue-infected individuals. The crowning achievement of the study, however, was the accomplishment of a 95.5 percent protection rate against the most deadly form of the disease, a discovery that is projected to save countless lives in countries from India to Brazil.

Past efforts to control dengue have relied heavily on preventative practices such as destroying mosquito egg-laying habitats and spraying insecticides intended to kill the disease-carrying mosquito vector. Without an effective antiviral medication available to treat infected individuals, however, the fight against dengue has been violent—and often deadly—for economically disadvantaged communities in tropical areas of the world. Because of the mosquito’s ability to adapt to many diverse environments, and its skill for finding hidden deposits of stagnant water in both rural and urban areas, regions affected by dengue quickly find the disease to reach epidemic proportions amongst their populations.

The introduction of the new dengue vaccine serves as a beacon of hope in the world’s fight against deadly pathogens, and will prove to empower millions of people in the developing world in their own fight against poverty.

– Brady Thomas Mott

Sources: New England Journal of Medicine, WHO
Photo: Top News