Going viral: Dengue research in Honduras

It first appeared in the 1950s. Now more than half the world’s population is at risk of infection. Learn about the dengue virus and the research we are supporting in Roatán to protect public health in Honduras and beyond.

What is dengue?

  • Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral infection characterized by flu-like symptoms including fever, rash and muscle/joint pain.
  • There are four strains of the virus; once you are exposed to one you become immune to that strain, but it is possible to be infected by all four strains over time. Repeated exposure to the different strains increases your risk of developing severe dengue, or dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF).
  • Severe dengue can lead to failure of the circulatory system, shock and even death.

How is it treated?

  • Access to medical care and appropriate treatment lowers dengue fatality rates to less than 1%. Proper treatment of DHF usually requires hospitalization.

Who is most vulnerable?

  • Infants and small children
  • The elderly
  • Individuals with compromised immune systems
Dra. Karla Cerritos examines an infant at the RVPC in Honduras. Roatán, Honduras: Infants and children are among the most vulnerable to dengue fever.

What is being done to address the threat in Roatán, Honduras?

On an island with only forty public hospital beds, it is important to make sure that limited health resources are being used effectively. Since it is costly and time-consuming to perform laboratory tests for all patients, the accurate clinical diagnosis of patients who present symptoms of dengue is key to providing proper treatment. Trevor Brooks of the University of California, San Francisco is currently conducting research that enables the Public Hospital Roatán to evaluate and improve its clinical diagnosis of dengue and provide better care for patients within the existing healthcare system.

Trevor Brooks examines samples from his study. The freezer was provided as a donation to the Public Hospital Roatán by Helmer Scientific.

Trevor shows us a sample from his study on the clinical diagnosis of dengue.

Above: Trevor Brooks examines samples from his research study.  Helmer Scientific donated a freezer to the Public Hospital Roatán in support of dengue research and public health on the island.

We recently asked Trevor about the impact of his research:

“The dengue project is important because it is finally bringing a level of certainty to the difficult clinical problem of diagnosing dengue. Whereas doctors at the Public Hospital Roatán previously operated in ambiguity and based on ‘gut-feelings’ regarding dengue, they now have a tool to definitively confirm or deny their suspicions. The patients at the Public Hospital Roatán in Coxen Hole tend to be on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, and it is very gratifying to help provide quality care to them free of charge thanks to the grant from The Doris Duke International Clinical Research Foundation and the support of Global Healing.”

Watch our video to get a first-hand look at Trevor’s research in action:

Blog photos and video credit: Rudi Tcruz, tcruz.design@gmail.com.