November 21, 2019
Cameron Simmons is far more familiar with dengue than he would like to be.
“I’ve had dengue. My family’s had dengue. It’s a miserable, miserable experience,” he says. “It’s not one I’d ever want to repeat or have anyone else experience.”
Unfortunately, last year nearly 400 million people experienced the viral disease that is so painful it’s often called break-bone fever. There’s no specific drug to treat the infection; medication is given only for the fever and other symptoms. Severe cases, although rare, can be fatal. And the only licensed vaccine has run into concerns about its safety.
In tropical places where dengue is rampant, annual outbreaks are a huge burden on health clinics.
Simmons is the director of the impact assessment team for the World Mosquito Program. He and his colleagues are trying to make a dent in this persistent disease.
“Throughout Southeast Asia, dengue is a guarantee every rainy season,” he says. “And so communities know — and indeed our public health colleagues in those communities know — that what they’re doing at the moment doesn’t work.”