This article originally appeared in the February 2013 Dengue Vaccine Initiative Newsletter

As the prominence of dengue grows, the need for an up-to-date and comprehensive understanding of the burden of disease becomes more and more important.  For dengue, this means not just mortality but also morbidity; the true cost of the disease lies not just in the lives lost, but in the burden placed on health systems, the days of work missed, and other harder to calculate figures. DVI is not the only one working on determining the disease burden of dengue.

Refining the Global Spatial Limits of Dengue Virus Transmission by Evidence-Based Consensus” from Professor Simon Hay’s group at the University of Oxford  presents the results of an exhaustive search of the literature to identify verifiable dengue case reports.   The investigators present their findings in the form of maps that display the geographic spread of dengue over the last decades.  The results identify three dozen countries that were not included in the WHO and/or U.S. Center for Disease Control list of countries with dengue and highlight the lack of good dengue data from many countries. 

“Mapping by evidence consensus not only encourages greater data inclusion, but it also better illustrates the current global distribution of dengue”, summarize the authors.  “Consensus mapping is thus ideal for a range of neglected tropical diseases where the evidence base is incomplete or less diagnostically reliable.” This paper is the first of a five year research project aiming to develop comprehensive, peer-reviewed and up-to-date data on the burden of dengue.

Years lived with disability (YLDs) for 1160 sequelae of 289 diseases and injuries 1990-2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010” provides a welcome update to earlier studies.  Dengue is included in this analysis, and it concludes there has been a two-fold increase in YLDs due to dengue between 1990 and 2000.

The authors of the study argue that, “quantification of the burden of non-fatal health outcomes will be crucial to understand how well health systems are responding to these challenges. Measuring the impact of dengue beyond mortality figures is an important part of quantifying the burden of the disease, and moving forward with a vaccine and continued control measures.”

These studies are two promising examples of the ongoing work to better define the impact of dengue, information which will be crucial in determining how to combat its growing spread.