By Alyah Khan

Since there are no drugs available to prevent or treat dengue infection, creating awareness about the disease is an essential preventative measure that can be carried out by doctors and nurses.

In country likes Pakistan, where dengue is a major public health concern, recent news stories have detailed how medical professionals are being trained to combat dengue by informing the public about the disease. Pakistan was hit hard by a dengue fever epidemic in 2011 and officials are striving to be more prepared this year.
 
Nurses at the Lahore General Hospital have completed a dengue training course on how to educate the general public about safety measures and maintaining a hygienic environment to prevent dengue, the Dawn newspaper reported. There have also been reports of health officials working together with local hospitals to ensure readiness for a potential dengue outbreak.
 
Last year’s epidemic resulted in approximately 12,000 people becoming infected with the disease and over 100 deaths, according to a CNN article published in September 2011. The majority of the dengue cases were reported in Lahore, a city with upwards of six million people.
 
As dengue emerges throughout Pakistan, certain health care institutions in the country appear to be proactively training their staff on how to educate citizens. But there’s plenty more that can be done. A letter to the editor published in the Dawn newspaper last month urged dengue training and awareness for the majority of Pakistan’s health care workers.
 
It’s also important that medical professionals are educated on how to properly diagnose and treat dengue. Early detection of dengue and access to proper medical care lowers fatality rates below 1 percent.
 
The nurses at Lahore General Hospital and other medical staff need to be fully armed with all the available information on dengue in order to help educate populations about the disease. The same is true for medical staff in the many countries where dengue is a reoccurring threat.
The role of medical professionals during a dengue epidemic was discussed in the Dengue Vaccine Initiative’s sixth Occasional Paper released in July 2011. The paper stated the following:
 
“During dengue epidemics, nursing and medical students together with community activists can visit homes with a double purpose: to educate on health and to actively trace dengue cases. This activity has demonstrated to be feasible, inexpensive, and effective, and must be coordinated with the Primary Health Care units, having printed some messages on dengue illness and warning signs to be delivered to the community. Medical care providers as physicians and nurses must include health education actions into their daily activities considering that promotion and prevention are also an important part of the work they have to do.”
 
In the absence of drugs to prevent or treat dengue infection, creating awareness is one step of many that can be taken to try and overcome the challenges posed by dengue. (The WHO has a number of resources for prevention, control and outbreak response regarding dengue that can be found here.)
 
However, prevention is not enough to contain the disease. Among tropical diseases, dengue is second in importance only to malaria, with the World Health Organization estimating 50-100 million dengue infections annually around the globe. That’s why DVI is working to lay the groundwork for dengue vaccine introduction in endemic areas. Given expected licensure of a safe and effective vaccine as soon as 2015, DVI – in cooperation with other partners – will help facilitate vaccine delivery to affected communities once sufficient product is made available by manufacturers.
 
For more information about dengue and the Dengue Vaccine Initiative, please visit the following website: http://denguevaccines.org/