British-funded dengue forecasting system in Viet Nam launched to fight dengue fever
|A worker sprays chemical insecticide in an area with a high risk of dengue fever in Ha Noi. (VNA/VNS Photo Duong Ngoc)|
The UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and HR Wallingford company on March 19 launched a pioneering dengue forecasting system in Vietnam, hoping to curb the spread of this disease in the country.
The D-MOSS project, funded by the UK Space Agency and is led by the HR Wallingford -- a British civil engineering and environmental hydraulics consultancy, will be implemented in Hanoi and Khanh Hoa, Dak Lak and Dong Nai provinces during 2019-2021.
The project uses a combination of satellite information, weather forecasting and historical data on previous outbreaks to create an early warning system for potential dengue danger zones. It is also set to clarify the links between environmental stressors, the hydrological-climate system and human health, as well as present people living in high-risk areas with warning of likely epidemics several months in advance.Through the system, local communities will receive direction on where to focus their efforts to reduce mosquito-breeding sites to prevent outbreaks of dengue.
The system will have other benefits too, such as an assessment module that can help localities improve water management.
Before the D-MOSS system, Viet Nam had no reliable way to predict the probability of dengue outbreaks. Failure to prevent the spread of the Aedes aegypti species - which carries dengue fever - has led to a doubling in the number of infections since 2000.
More than 170,000 cases of dengue fever infection were reported in 2018, resulting in 38 deaths.
The emergence of Zika virus in the region, which is transmitted by the same type of mosquito, means Vi?t Nam needs an efficient tool to respond to diseases.
Under the D-MOSS project, an early warning platform combining Earth Observation datasets, weather predictions and a hydrological model will be able to forecast likely future outbreaks of dengue fever up to eight months in advance.
The system will take into account water supplies and precipitation that directly affect mosquito breeding sites along with other variables such as the number of dengue cases, land use and temperature.
According to Darren Lumbroso, director of the D-MOSS project, the solution relies on open and non-proprietary software and on flexible deployment into platforms including cloud-based virtual storage and application processing.
"This is the first time a forecast system based on Earth Observation allows decision makers to identify high-risk areas of epidemics to mobilise forces to reduce incidents of diseases," he said.
At the launching ceremony, Kamal Malhotra, UN Resident Coordinator in Vietnam, described the project as a wonderful initiative which helps Vietnamese health sector to combat dengue fever?s impacts.
"If Viet Nam wants to deal with dengue fever, you will need a multi-dispensary and multi-agencies approach to it and you will need a model which is much better and can predict far in advance when the next epidemic is going to be," he said. "It also can be responsive in terms of reduction of mosquitoes, weather forecasting and hygiene."
The lack of joint approaches from the Government and departments, low awareness among the population about the disease and rapid urbanisation are three of the biggest challenges to the implementation of the project in Viet Nam, according to Malhotra.
"It is not only about health data, it's about water, demographics and land use," he said. "If we cannot bring it all together, we are not going to be able to benefit from the prediction model."
Highlighting the UK's strength in space technology, UK Ambassador to Vietnam Gareth Ward expressed his delight to see the Space Agency and its partners introduce a new tool to help Vietnam predict and respond to the dengue outbreak in a more precise and effective manner.
The project is a vivid illustration for the UK's commitment to supporting Vietnam to realise the UN's Millennium Goals, he added.
The project will end in 2021 and will release its first predictions in June, 2019.
At a glance | Dengue fever
Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection The infection causes flu-like illness, and occasionally develops into a potentially lethal complication called severe dengue The global incidence of dengue has grown dramatically in recent decades and about half of the world's population is now at risk Dengue is found in tropical and sub-tropical climates worldwide, mostly in urban and semi-urban areas. Severe dengue is a leading cause of serious illness and death among children in some Asian and Latin American countries There is no specific treatment for dengue/ severe dengue, but early detection and access to proper medical care lowers fatality rates below 1%
Source: World Health Organization