Newswise — The first assessment of the total cost of dengue illness in the Americas reveals the economic burden to be approximately $2.1 billion per year, exceeding that from other viral illnesses including human papillomavirus (HPV) and rotavirus. Results of the study conducted by Brandeis University were released in the February issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Approximately 60 percent of this economic burden results from indirect costs mostly related to productivity losses affecting households, employers and government expenditures. Direct costs include ambulatory and hospital care. Estimates are based on five components: the number of reported dengue cases, the degree of under-reporting, the direct and indirect costs per case, the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) burden per case and the country’s demographic information.

“Dengue is a growing human and economic burden worldwide and in 2009 we saw the first major outbreak in the continental U.S. in over 50 years,” said Donald Shepard, PhD, Brandeis University. “We know first-hand that regardless of where you live, we are all affected by dengue. At Brandeis, we lost a remarkable graduate, Mironda Heston, due to dengue while she was working in Haiti. In her memory, we are extremely dedicated and proud to contribute to a better understanding of this awful virus in hopes to better control it.”

Dengue is the most common mosquito-borne virus in the world, recently reemerging in countries that were previously free of it. Globally, the projected number of annual dengue infections is estimated between 50-100 million, with 24,000 deaths, mainly in children. When compared to the same countries, the economic impact of dengue exceeds that estimated for HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection, and rotavirus, the most common cause of severe, dehydrating diarrhea among children worldwide.

“Economic impact studies are a valuable tool to help policymakers, scientists and health professionals assess the progress being made to control and eradicate diseases here and around the world,” said Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD, President, American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. “As citizens of a global world, we cannot tolerate the continued pain and suffering that is caused by dengue. We must forge ahead with vaccine development and community control, participation and education campaigns.”

About the ASTMH

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, founded in 1903, is a worldwide organization of scientists, clinicians and program professionals whose mission is to promote global health through the prevention and control of infectious and other diseases that disproportionately afflict the global poor.

About the Heller School

Prof. Shepard and co-author, Yara Halasa, are based at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. With an international and domestic policy focus, the Heller School sponsors a social policy doctoral program and five master’s programs in addition to having an active roster of 125 policy research projects.

About Mironda Heston

In September 2004, at the age of 24, Mironda Heston, MA ‘04, Brandeis University, lost her battle against dengue fever which she contracted while doing international development work. Linda Heston, Mironda’s mother, is “thrilled that Brandeis University is continuing to focus on work that will encourage the creation of a vaccine or other solutions to control or eliminate dengue in the U.S. and around the world so other families do not have to go through what we went through.” Mironda was dedicated to improving the lives of the disproportionately poor and traveled yearly to Haiti where she contracted dengue. The Mironda Heston Health Center in Haiti and the Mironda Heston Memorial Fund at Brandeis’s Heller School are named in her memory.

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American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene