If a person comes down with a viral infection, there are treatments. There are medicines to lower fevers and intravenous solutions to keep patients hydrated. But in most cases, there is no available cure.
Because of this, health officials do everything they can to keep the number of people contracting viruses as low as possible. This approach is called prevention. We travel less. We don’t shake hands. We wear masks.
Dengue is a virus for which there’s no cure. But dengue isn’t airborne, so masks won’t work. It’s vector-borne, which means it’s transmitted by carrier organisms like mosquitoes. According to the World Health Organization, mosquito-borne diseases cause over 700,000 deaths every year, making mosquitoes the deadliest animals on Earth.
So how do we put a mask on every mosquito? Well, we can’t. But we can do the next best thing.
Supporting a critical global need
Because vector-borne diseases disproportionately affect the world’s poorest communities—semi-urban regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America—the outcry for solutions doesn’t often reach those in the developed world.
Dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever—the deadlier strain of the virus—affect hundreds of millions of people every year, and cases have increased 15-fold over the last twenty years. Global travel and trade, unplanned urbanization, poor sanitation and climate change are all contributing to a rise in cases.
Now, more than half of the world’s population is at risk for contracting the virus that causes dengue.
The global investment in vector control for dengue has fallen behind the uptick in cases. We are in need of progress.
Science that saves lives
One of the major problems health officials noticed in fighting mosquitoes was the ongoing need for innovation. With decades of proven expertise in targeted pest management, our scientists created the first ever vector control solution with two active ingredients. Combining these two complementary active ingredients into one product allowed health officials to combat the real challenges on the ground with greater efficacy.
Recently, Bayer’s ongoing commitment to innovation has resulted in an evolving portfolio of new and effective solutions, including our celebrated Fludora and K-Othrine Polyzone products. To amplify our impact, we’ve also collaborated with public and private partners to create the Intervention for Dengue Epidemiology in Malaysia (iDEM). The goal of iDEM is to reduce the threat posed to public health and global economies by controlling the spread of dengue through prevention programs.
By pooling knowledge, expertise and tools, iDEM has put a proactive integrated vector management system into action which relies on both chemical and biological solutions.
It’s crucial that innovation does not stop. Especially now.
Evolving solutions address ongoing challenges
The global effects of COVID-19 have dramatically impacted critical vector control operations, making it more difficult to monitor and address the spread of vector-borne illnesses. For example, lockdown situations to address the coronavirus pandemic may be having adverse effects on the ongoing efforts to fight dengue in Mexico, Brazil, and Singapore. Many dengue control measures have stopped because of immobilization, and health workers have been reassigned to work on local COVID-19 cases. Also, lockdowns mean more people are spending time at home where most transmissions of dengue occur.
This is not another story of another threat to the perceived normal. Vector-borne diseases have been the norm for a huge portion of the world’s population—one we need to reverse.
It will take collaboration, time, and innovation, but we can help curb the rise of dengue, as well as many other vector-borne illnesses that often go neglected, like Yellow Fever and Japanese Encephalitis. In addition to private partnerships and innovations, governments around the world need to prioritize advancements in vector control despite—and because of—COVID-19, which could exacerbate the ongoing impact of vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue. By collaborating across borders, these important initiatives will shape a better future of health and dignity for our world’s most vulnerable communities.