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Research into Dengue fever soon

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

A research to ascertain the disease burden of dengue fever on the country is to be conducted soon.

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The research, which will bring to light how endemic one of the world’s neglected tropic fevers is in the country will be a collaboration between the International Research Consortium on Dengue Risk Assessment, Management and Surveillance (IDAMS) based in Germany and the International Network for the Demographic Evaluation of Populations and their Health in Developing Countries (INDEPTH).

Dengue fever, which has been identified in 34 African countries, is an acute viral disease characterised by a sudden onset of fever for three to five days, with intense headache, joint and muscle pain, pain behind the eyes, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances and rash.

Minor bleeding, such as gum and nose bleeding, may occur at any time during the febrile phase.

Hitherto a neglected tropical disease, it is an infectious disease transmitted by the aedes mosquito and is characterised by rash and aching head and joints and also causes severe flu-like illness.

Children are said to have a milder form of the disease than adults and the incubation period is three to 14 days, of which recovery may be followed by prolonged fatigue and depression.

Epidemics usually occur during and shortly after the rainy season.

Occasionally, the disease is said to progress to Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (DHF) with bleeding and shock, leading to death.

At a meeting in Accra to fashion out modalities for the collaborative effort between IDAMS and INDEPTH, it was disclosed that Ghana was surrounded by countries which had had reported outbreaks of dengue fever and there was, therefore, the need for the country to protect itself from the disease.

Ironically, according to the health experts, the disease, which presented itself as malaria, was often treated with malaria drugs which, most often, were ineffective.

According to Dr Raman Velayudhan of the Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, World Health Organisation (WHO), Geneva, Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean regions represented a global pandemic threat of dengue fever and Ghana was no expection.

Countries which have had outbreaks of the disease include Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Bolivia, Columbia, Nicaragua, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Kenya.

A member of the IDAMS, Mr Thomas Jänisch of the Heidelberg University Hospital, Germany, said at the meeting that what was unknown about the disease in Africa was the transmission intensity, incidence and  the number of persons in a population who tested positive to the infection.

Also, the clinical spectrum of dengue in Africa was not well described.

Giving the global trend of the disease, he said dengue had become the most rapidly spreading mosquito-borne disease, with the population at risk being more than 2.5 billion and more than a 100 countries being endemic with it.

Mr Janisch said there was no effective control strategy for the disease, with the results of first vaccine candidate efficacy trial in 2012 showing disappointing results.

He said the goal of IDAMS was to improve diagnosis and the clinical management of dengue through identification of readily available clinical and laboratory parameters and or viral and immunological markers that differentiated between dengue and other common febrile diseases within three days of fever onset.

Secondly, he said, the consortium was also aimed at identifying any of the available markers that were predictive of the likelihood of evolving into a more severe disease course.

Through the collaborative research, he said, they would be able to assess the risk of dengue spread though linked work packages focused on mapping and modelling techniques to define the current extent of dengue disease globally and evaluate possible scenarios of spread or risk to previously uninfected regions in the future.

The meeting, Mr Janisch said, would also help them develop effective and affordable early warning and outbreak response systems.

The Executive Secretary of INDEPTH Network, Dr Osman Sankoh, said the collaborative effort would be a boost to the country’s health needs.

He said with no documented data on dengue fever in the country and Africa in general, countries were at risk of dengue outbreaks in the future.

Story by Rebecca Quaicoe-Duho