Crop-livestock systems in Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI/Hung Nguyen-Viet).

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease that commonly occurs in warm, tropical climates. It is characterized by high fever and flu-like symptoms that can last for up to one week. In a small proportion of cases, severe dengue may occur, leading to bleeding and low blood pressure. There is no specific treatment for infection but medication can be taken to control symptoms.

Climate change and rapid unplanned urbanization are among the factors that have brought people into more frequent contact with the vectors, thus contributing to further spread of disease.

According to the World Health Organization, the global incidence of dengue has risen dramatically in recent decades, with an estimated 390 million dengue infections annually.

Vietnam is one of at least 100 countries where the disease is now endemic. Dengue infection in Vietnam is unstable but peaks from June to October annually.

As part of efforts to curb the spread of dengue in Vietnam, research efforts are being undertaken to develop tools that will enable timely detection and control of the disease. One such research study recently examined seasonal trends of dengue in Vietnam and used the data to develop a statistical model to forecast the incidence of the disease.

The study, published in PLOS ONE (27 Nov 2019), was carried out by a team of researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute and Vietnamese partners from Hanoi University of Public Health, the Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Climate Change, the Ministry of Health and the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.

To develop the statistical risk forecasting model, the researchers used dengue surveillance data that had been collected by health centres in Vietnam’s 63 provinces between 2001 and 2012. In addition, they obtained monthly meteorological data from the Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology and Climate Change. Land cover data were obtained from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer website of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The data were also used to develop risk maps of dengue incidence showing the distribution of the incidence of infection in the wet and dry seasons. The researchers are optimistic that with these new risk-based forecasting tools, policymakers and planners in Vietnam will be better able to predict dengue incidence in the country and thus respond in a timely manner to effectively control the disease.

Citation
Bett, B., Grace, D., Hu Suk Lee, Lindahl, J., Hung Nguyen-Viet, Phuc Pham-Duc, Nguyen Huu Quyen, Tran Anh Tu, Tran Dac Phu, Dang Quang Tan and Vu Sinh Nam. 2019. Spatiotemporal analysis of historical records (2001–2012) on dengue fever in Vietnam and development of a statistical model for forecasting risk. PLOS ONE 14(11): e0224353.

Delia Grace presents on zoonotic diseases, UNEP Nairobi, 20 May 2016
ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace presenting at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Science-Policy Forum that preceded the second session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2), on 20 May 2016 (photo credit: ILRI).

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) held its first global Science-Policy Forum in Nairobi, Kenya on 19-20 May 2016 as part of the overall programme of the second session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) held on 23-27 May 2016.

The forum offered a platform to the science community to engage with policymakers and civil society stakeholders on the science and knowledge needed to support informed decision-making to deliver on the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), took part in the forum as a panellist for the launch of the UNEP Frontiers 2016 report on emerging issues of environmental concern.

Her presentation on zoonotic and emerging infectious diseases focused on the global burden of zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transmitted between animals and people), the drivers of disease (among them, land use change, environmental degradation and climate change) and how the multidisciplinary One Health approach can be used to support timely response to the threat of zoonotic diseases.

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Zoonotic diseases are also featured in a chapter in the UNEP Frontiers 2016 report, Zoonoses: Blurred lines of emergent disease and ecosystem health by Delia Grace and ILRI colleagues Bernard Bett, Hu Suk Lee and Susan MacMillan.

Cover of special issue of Vietnam Journal of Preventive Medicine on risk assessment

The Vietnamese Journal of Preventive Medicine has published a special edition on risk assessment for health research in Vietnam. The June 2013 special edition is a compilation of over 10 original research papers on the application of risk analysis to the management of animal, human and environmental health in Vietnam. The subject of training and capacity development in health risk assessment in Vietnam is also featured.

Risk analysis is a scientific, risk-based approach to assessing the health effects and economic impacts of various hazards (for example, disease-causing microorganisms in food or chemical pollutants in water) in order to develop appropriate interventions to mitigate the health risks posed by the hazards, thus ensuring that people, animals and the environment are safe.

Risk analysis comprises three components: risk assessment, risk management and risk communication. In the developed world, risk assessment is widely applied and used as a tool for risk management, thanks to the availability and accessibility of large databases of diseases.

However, many developing countries – including Vietnam – do not have the research data and risk analysis expertise needed to be able to adequately inform policymaking on risk-based approaches to health management.

The research papers featured in the special issue provide insights into the current status of research on risk analysis in Vietnam, specifically, risk assessment of the health impacts of Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes in the pork value chain in Hanoi, arsenic contamination in drinking water in Hanam Province, dioxin contamination in food in Da Nang and pesticide residues in farms in Thai Binh.

The work is a result of the collaborative efforts of the Vietnamese Journal of Preventive Medicine and the Center for Public Health and Ecosystem Research (CENPHER) at the Hanoi School of Public Health (HSPH).

Among the co-authors of the research papers are Delia Grace and Lucy Lapar, scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and Hung Nguyen-Viet who leads research at CENPHER-HSPH and is a joint appointee of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and ILRI.

The papers are in Vietnamese with abstracts available in English. Listed below are the titles of the papers.

  • Risk assessment and health research in Vietnam (editorial)
  • Risk assessment of Salmonella in pork in Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Food-borne hazards in a transforming pork value chain in Hanoi: Basis for future risk assessments
  • Health risk due to exposure to chlorpyrifos for farmers in Thai Binh: Probabilistic risk assessment
  • Risk assessment of arsenic contamination in tube-well drinking water in Hanam Province
  • Environmental health risk assessment of dioxin in foods in Da Nang dioxin hot spot
  • Prevalence of Salmonella contamination in pig and pork at farms and slaughterhouses in the northern provinces of Vietnam
  • Air pollution as a health issue in Hanoi, Vietnam: An opportunity for intensified research to inform public policy
  • Environmental health risk communication: Concept, principles and challenges
  • Training and research programs in health risk assessment in Vietnam
  • Task force of risk assessment for food safety in Vietnam: Linking science to policy to increase food safety and livelihood generation of the poor farmer
  • Research projects on health risk assessment implemented by the Hanoi School of Public Health

The special edition also includes news on risk assessment training in Vietnam and reviews of two books on risk assessment.

For more information on this special edition, please contact Hung Nguyen-Viet (hung.nguyen @ unibas.ch).