Jason Nash

Defeating Dengue with Digital Tools and Dialogue

Mosquitoes are small, but they are the most dangerous animal in the world, spreading diseases such as malaria, dengue and now Zika. More than half the world’s population are threatened by such diseases which cause the death of around one million of people annually worldwide.

Mosquitoes are small, but they are the most dangerous animal in the world, spreading diseases such as malaria, dengue and now Zika. More than half the world’s population are threatened by such diseases which cause the death of around one million of people annually worldwide.

Dengue, a mosquito-borne disease, is a critical threat to public health, with about 3.9 billion people in 128 countries at risk of infection and almost 4 million cases reported per year. It is also one of the fastest growing diseases worldwide, with incidence rising 30-fold over the last 50 years, making it one of the most prevalent mosquito-borne viruses in the world.

This disease is spread by the Aedes mosquito and is primarily an urban disease, two factors that make it particularly complicated to control. Firstly, the Aedes mosquito attacks during the morning and evening when people are generally most active and moving around. Secondly, mosquito population control measures, which include outdoor space spraying and larvicides, are somewhat more complicated to implement in highly populated areas due to restricted access and reticence to use chemicals in public spaces.

Dengue is prominent in South East Asia, and having lived in Singapore for the past 17 years, this hits very close to home.

Jason Nash
Jason Nash
Jason Nash
is Innovation & Stakeholder Relations Manager of the Environmental Science Unit for the APAC region. On the eve of ASEAN Dengue Day last month the regional team launched a new Virtual Reality program to combat Dengue using digital innovation and dialogue.

As with other major diseases, Dengue affects not only individuals and societies, but also economies. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the estimated annual economic burden is 40 billion USD.

Singapore is a hub for global commerce and finance. Its standings include: the most "technology-ready" nation according to the World Economic Forum and is rated as the 5th country on the UN Human Development Index which considers factors such as education, healthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety, and housing. The fact that this positive growth may be hindered by such a disease is unnerving.

I am proud to say that over the last 60 years working in the field of Vector Control, Bayer has developed its technical expertise, products and solutions which are crucial to preventing vector-borne tropical diseases, but today we realise ever more emphasis is needed on integrated solutions which include awareness programs for the general public – including our friends and neighbours here in South East Asia.

Therefore, two years ago we launched the Mosquito Learning Lab – an interactive online learning tool specially designed for communities to find out more about Dengue. It explains the many different ways the public can prevent mosquito breeding in and around their homes though simple actions such as removing water from a plant pot on a balcony.

However, our biggest challenge was not creating the tool, but engaging people to use it and learn from it.

It takes time for people to adopt new practices and make prevention part of their everyday habits. To bring the concept to life, we have now created Mosquito Quest. Launched in the run up to ASEAN Dengue Day on at the Bayer Innovation Week in Singapore in May, Mosquito Quest is a virtual reality experience that complements the Learning Lab. It immerses users in a real-life situation, testing their knowledge and ability as they identify potential mosquito breeding sites while on a guided virtual tour through an everyday home.

By partnering with local government, we have had the opportunity to introduce it in schools and I have been incredibly impressed when seeing school children use the tool, asking questions and showing enthusiasm for the interactive features. We are truly educating the next generation of influencers.

For me, knowing our city and tech-centric culture, this is a novel way to engage and capture attention in a city that thrives on innovation.

It is rewarding also that these tools can be adapted, translated and updated as we face additional vector-borne challenges around the world. A 360-degree approach, whereby we leverage our expertise and innovation capacity and combine this with partnering, education and engagement is incredibly powerful and, I believe, essential if we are to ensure diseases, like dengue, are defeated.

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Anthony Summers
July 24, 2017 - 10:15 AM

good article. As someone in agriculture and mosquito control i would be interested in any publications or innovations bayer make in mosquito control

regards,
Anthony

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