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No magic bullet but vaccines may help long war against dengue virus

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Asia is on the cusp of a summer of life-threatening dengue fever. 

Synopsis: Every fourth Friday of the month, The Straits Times' global contributor Nirmal Ghosh shines a light on Asian perspectives of global and Asian issues with expert guests.

Dengue fever case numbers have gone up across the global tropics. This includes Singapore, a model in many respects for health surveillance and epidemic control, and mosquito control. In the first quarter of 2024, Singapore recorded more than double the number of cases than in the same period in 2023. 

Meanwhile across the world, Latin America and the Caribbean have been warned to prepare for their worst dengue season ever. 

The long war against dengue must contend with many factors including climate, weather, and human behaviour. Even without an outbreak or epidemic, dengue may circulate silently among populations. 

No single solution is perfect. Dengue vaccines have been developed, but there are four strains of the virus, and the vaccines have different degrees of efficacy. 

The key to effective dengue control is health surveillance and a good laboratory system - and in Singapore’s case especially, collaboration with neighbouring countries. Vaccinating populations could help complement other dengue and mosquito control measures.

Globally, we discuss how countries must build urban infrastructure to be less mosquito-friendly. 

Nirmal Ghosh hosts his guests who are also global dengue gurus:

  1. Dr. Duane Gubler, Emeritus Professor and founding director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Signature Research Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School
  2. Dr. Ooi Eng Eong is a Professor in the Programme in Emerging Infectious Diseases at Duke-NUS Medical School

Highlights (click/tap above): 

2:31 Dengue vaccine - the solution for Singapore? 

8:06 Important lessons from Sars and Covid-19

16:03 Why a single vaccination cannot prevent dengue entirely 

17:52 Contrarian view: Global warming is not the main cause of dengue fever 

20:00 Better living standards can help control mosquito-borne diseases

23:19 Should new cities consider mosquito-related issues in building plans?

Produced by: Nirmal Ghosh ( and Fa’izah Sani

Edited by: Fa’izah Sani

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