New research from health economists at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management estimates the cost of the mosquito borne viral disease, dengue fever, is quite high, in fact it’s in the billions of dollars globally each year.
The research recently published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases reveals the economic burden that dengue fever imposes on 141 countries and territories around the world where active dengue transmission has been identified comes at an estimated price tag of US$8.9 billion annually, which is more costly than a number of infectious disease like cholera and Chagas.
According to lead author and health economist, Donald Shepard PhD, the paper took a comprehensive view to assemble all existing evidence to generate a systematic estimate of global economic burden and, for the first time, to replicate this process 1,000 times to generate uncertainty intervals around the central estimate.
“The dearth of population-based data for many elements was the biggest challenge of us. For important parts of the tropics-especially South Asia and Africa-almost no such studies exist, in fact,” notes Professor Shepard.
The study provides both global and regional estimates on the cost of dengue, broken down by country and various short- and long-term costs. By putting a value on the size of the dengue problem, these estimates will help governments and donors make better-informed decisions around their dengue programs.
“In every country the public purse has more demands than it can satisfy,” says Professor Shepard. “Defining dengue in monetary terms means the disease can be compared with other economic problems. Public health systems can then leverage that information to secure resources from their Ministry of Finance – and possibly the donor community – to control the disease.”
In quantifying the uncertainty around the study’s estimates, the study highlights the importance of conducting additional cohort studies and linking the results with routine surveillance data.
“Our hope is that a greater understanding of the main factors driving uncertainty around the burden of dengue will allow current estimates to be improved and, consequently, drive the evaluation of existing and potential future preventive and treatment approaches,” concludes Professor Shepard.
Dengue is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito infected with one of the four dengue virus serotypes. It is a febrile illness that affects infants, young children and adults with symptoms appearing 3-14 days after the infective bite.
Dengue is not transmitted directly from person-to-person and symptoms range from mild fever, to incapacitating high fever, with severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, and rash.
Severe dengue (also known as dengue hemorrhagic fever) is characterized by fever, abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, bleeding and breathing difficulty and is a potentially lethal complication, affecting mainly children.
In the past 50 years, the incidence of dengue worldwide has increased 30-fold, largely as a consequence of the growth of cities and increased travel.
According to a 2013 WHO report between 1955 and 1959, the number of countries reporting cases of dengue increased from three to eight; in 2012, the geographical distribution of dengue included more than 125 countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there may be 50–100 million dengue infections worldwide every year. However,there was 2013 research from the University of Oxford and the Wellcome Trust, using cartographic approaches, estimate there to be 390 million dengue infections per year worldwide.