Warning system could predict dengue outbreaks

A warning system measuring dengue risk through air temperature and precipitation could be able to forecast an outbreak of dengue fever up to 16 weeks in advance, according to a recent study.

According to a study conducted by Yien Ling Hii, higher risk of dengue can occur in the three to four months following favorable temperature and rainfall conditions. Yien developed a statistical forecasting model to estimate the risk of dengue outbreak to provide an early warning and allow for an appropriate response. The model is sensitive to detect dengue outbreaks and non-outbreaks with up to a 20 percent chance of false alarm.

"An early warning of disease outbreak can help local authorities and community to implement preventive measures such as eliminating mosquito breeding habitats to control or even prevent the outbreak from happening," Yien said.

Yien will defend the results of the study in her dissertation on Friday at Umeå University in Sweden.

Dengue fever is widespread in more than 100 countries in the tropical and subtropical regions. The viral disease, which is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, causes muscle ache, headache, rash, joint pain and high fever. A small percentage of patients can develop fatal complications such as severe bleeding, plasma leakage and organ impairments.

There is no treatment drug or vaccine to protect against dengue fever. Currently, the most effective way to prevent against dengue is to take action to control the mosquito population.