Cost of Dengue Fever Challenges National Economies

Aedes aegypti transmits the dengue
fever - a vaccine is badly needed

Despite the nation's efforts at treatment and control, 10,000 cases are reported each year at a cost of almost $13 million, slightly less than half for vector control and the rest for treating hospitalised patients with dengue fever, an often painful and sometimes fatal virus.

These costs are equivalent to 940,000 lost workdays of output, said lead author Professor Donald Shepard, a health economist at Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management. In contrast, a prior study by Shepard and other researchers found that a dengue vaccine, if development proceeds as hoped, would offset 87 percent of treatment costs for all of Southeast Asia, as well as reduce the cost of vector control with fumigants and insecticides.

In effect, a vaccine made widely available would cost only marginally more than current treatment and control efforts, but with dramatic gains in public health and economic output.

"This study dramatically strengthens the case for developing and implementing an affordable vaccine wherever dengue is common," said Shepard. Although no vaccine is yet commercially available, several approaches are under development.

The first findings from this research evaluated the cost of treatment and control of dengue fever from 2000-2004 in Malaysia. "One hospitalised case of dengue fever costs one-fifth of Malaysia's per capita gross national product (GNP)" noted Shepard. "The cost of treatment, the pain and suffering, the fear that a parent or child could die from this virus - all these facts are reasons why dengue is a salient candidate for vaccine development," Shepard said.

Currently, each person hospitalised with dengue fever or dengue hemorrhagic fever in Malaysia costs about $718 to treat. About 70 percent of the cost is paid for by the government, and the rest by insurers and individual households. This cost per patient is equivalent to 53 days of lost economic output, according to the study.; Source: Brandeis University