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Researchers used a prototype to predict the risks of dengue during the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil and believe it could be effective for other diseases, such as chikungunya and zika
The need to prevent the spread of infectious tropical diseases like the Zika virus –which is currently a priority for the world health system– has given rise to many new initiatives. Recently, an ICREA program has created an app called Mosquito Alert, a citizen participation platform to locate possible focal points of the disease and create a map of how the species are spreading in Spain.
To the same end, the Catalan Institute of Climate Sciences is participating in a research project with scientists from the United Kingdom (University of Exeter) and Brazil (Center for Weather Forecasting and Climate Research, Fiocruz, Ministry of Health, University of Brasilia and Sao Paulo State University) to develop an early warning system to warn of the possible spread mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue, chikungunya and zika.
As a first prototype, the research group created an alert to detect dengue three months before the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil. The results were assessed recently, proving the efficacy of the tool. Of the 550 ‘microregions’ of Brazil, the system predicted a high risk of dengue in 57%, compared to the 33% detected by traditional prediction models.
The system’s success is due to a combination of information from the dengue warning system (compiled over 13 years) and real-time weather forecasts, which had never been done before. Although the new model tends to produce some false alerts, the research group believes it’s better “to prevent than to cure.” So, they believe the project is a useful tool for public health services.
Dengue is a pathogen transmitted by the same mosquito as the Zika virus (Aedes aegypti), although it leads to a much more serious infection that can even result in death. Because the cause is the same, researchers believe this system could also prevent the spread of zika and other diseases transmitted by the same species, like chukingunya, with sights set on this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, which expects to attract masses of tourists.
Evaluating probabilistic dengue risk forecasts from a prototype early warning system for Brazil eLife 2016, 5 (24 February 2016) doi 10.7554/eLife.11285