Financial burden of dengue fever revealed

Dengue fever, the most common mosquito-borne viral disease in the entire world, has spread from its origins in Southeast Asia and has resurged in countries like Chile, Argentina and the continental United States, causing a major economic burden.

A study by Brandeis University published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene has shown that in the Western Hemisphere alone, dengue fever costs approximately $2.1 billion per year. This is higher than the economic burden of other viral illnesses, including human papillomavirus and rotavirus.

The research says that 60 percent of the economic strain caused by the virus is a result of indirect costs like productivity losses affecting employers, government expenditures and households.

"Understanding the economic impact of a disease is an important tool to assist policy makers in understanding the social as well as the medical impact,” Yara Halasa, a research associate at the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy in the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and co-author of the study, said. “This is a great methodology that can be used for any disease.”

Dengue fever, the most common dengue illness, leads to joint pain, high fever and severe headache. Dengue hemorrhagic fever, the more severe dengue illness, can lead to shock and potentially death. It is estimated that there are between 50 and 100 million dengue infections each year and 24,000 deaths, most of which are children.

"Technologies need resources and economic analysis quantifies the burden of the disease in human and economic terms,” Donald S. Shepard, a professor at the Heller School’s Schneider Institute for Health Policy, said. "The studies show how much societies could save from effective control strategies."