Why dengue fever is a threat to urban population in developing nations

Monday, February 21, 2011

WASHINGTON - A Vanier Canada Graduate Scholar has examined why dengue fever, a severe flu-like illness spread through the bite of mosquitoes, continues to threaten urban populations in many developing countries.

“Dengue fever is often believed to be connected to poverty and poor public services, but in some cities this just isn’t the case,” said Kate Mulligan, student at the McMaster University campus of the United Nations University’s Institute on Water, Environment and Health.

“I want to know: have we been mischaracterizing dengue fever all this time? Or is infectious disease control simply at the bottom of the list of urban priorities?”

Mulligan’s research used Malaysia’s carefully planned city of Putrajaya as her example. Designed to be a showcase of Malaysian innovation, the city has excellent public services and one of the highest standards for water quality in the world. It also has very high rates of dengue fever.

So far, she’s discovered that the traditional link made between poverty and water-related diseases like dengue fever may be at the root of the problem.

“Does the connection between poverty and the disease imply there is no risk for the wealthy?” she asked.

“I think we really have to consider the impact of making this link,” she added.

Mulligan has presented her research on the connection between cities, water and health at the THINK CANADA Press Breakfast at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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