How space technology can predict dengue outbreaks

12 January 2022 ClimateGCRFHealthVietnam

Dengue is the fastest spreading mosquito-borne viral disease in the world. About half of the world's population is at risk. There are an estimated 100-400 million infections each year, with Asia representing ~70% of this.

In Vietnam dengue deaths per 100,000 people increased from 120 in 2009 (105,370 cases) to 194 in 2017 (184,000 cases).

There is no specific treatment for dengue/severe dengue. But early detection of disease and access to proper medical care lowers fatality rates of severe dengue to below 1%.

The spread of dengue is regulated by the climate. For example, temperature and humidity influence many aspects of the biology of mosquitoes including their development, survival and biting rate. These variations interact with other factors such as demographic and socio-economic conditions that can alter the local disease prevalence significantly. If these factors can be monitored and predicted, then this allows outbreaks of dengue to be forecasted.

Since 2018, a project, under the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme, led by Oxfordshire-based HR Wallingford, has used Earth observation data to develop an early warning system for dengue outbreaks in Vietnam.

D-MOSS is a dengue forecasting system, co-designed with stakeholders from the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Development Programme. D-MOSS predicts the likelihood of future dengue outbreaks up to six months in advance, for the entire country at a provincial level. This information has been used to facilitate early action to control and manage dengue outbreaks.

Authorities on the ground can strategically plan timely interventions, moving precious resources to where they are most effective. These might include:

  • media awareness campaigns
  • spraying insecticide
  • removing standing water
  • warning communities to cover up their skin and sleep under mosquito nets.

The application of D-MOSS in Vietnam has confirmed that it provides suitably accurate forecasts of dengue outbreaks. It’s a reliable and cost-effective solution.

The project won the Big Data/IoT project of the year award. It was highly commended in the best not-for-profit category of the 2021 Digital Technology Leaders Awards for big data/IoT project of the year in the UK. It also won three awards at the 2021 UK IT Industry Awards for emerging technology of the year, best charity (third sector) IT project of the year and user engagement project of the year. It was highly commended for data science project of the year.

D-MOSS shows that there is a large untapped potential for developing tools that link space technology and public health applications. Many high-quality satellite Earth observation data products are freely available, which enables this development.

D-MOSS’s architecture and modular design ensure it can be replicated in other countries, be that in South-East Asia or other countries around the world. Owing to its success in Vietnam, prototype D-MOSS systems are now being implemented in Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

“We are beginning to see that D-MOSS has helped policymaking officials to develop dengue prevention and control strategies in advance of an outbreak, and to contribute to reducing dengue cases and mortality rate.”

Dr Vu Trong Duoc, Deputy Director of the Department of Medical Entomology and Zoology, National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE), Vietnam.

Find out more information about this project:

Managing dengue fever with space technology - UK Space Agency blog

Dengue and severe dengue (who.int)

Dengue Vietnam (who.int)

D-MOSS – Dengue MOdel forecasting Satellite-based System

Project Leads: HR Wallingford, UK

Project Partners: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK Met Office, Oxford Policy Management, United Nations Development Programme, World Health Organization, National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Pasteur Institute Ho Chi Minh City, Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Climate Change, and the International Medical University in Malaysia.

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