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A dengue outbreak in a rural community in Northern Coastal Ecuador: An analysis using unmanned aerial vehicle mapping.


Dengue is recognized as a major health issue in large urban tropical cities but is also observed in rural areas. In these environments, physical characteristics of the landscape and sociodemographic factors may influence vector populations at small geographic scales, while prior immunity to the four dengue virus serotypes affects incidence. In 2019, a rural northwestern Ecuadorian community, only accessible by river, experienced a dengue outbreak. The village is 2-3 hours by boat away from the nearest population center and comprises both Afro-Ecuadorian and Indigenous Chachi households. We used multiple data streams to examine spatial risk factors associated with this outbreak, combining maps collected with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), an entomological survey, a community census, and active surveillance of febrile cases. We mapped visible water containers seen in UAV images and calculated both the green-red vegetation index (GRVI) and household proximity to public spaces like schools and meeting areas. To identify risk factors for symptomatic dengue infection, we used mixed-effect logistic regression models to account for the clustering of symptomatic cases within households. We identified 55 dengue cases (9.5% of the population) from 37 households. Cases peaked in June and continued through October. Rural spatial organization helped to explain disease risk. Afro-Ecuadorian (versus Indigenous) households experience more symptomatic dengue (OR = 3.0, 95%CI: 1.3, 6.9). This association was explained by differences in vegetation (measured by GRVI) near the household (OR: 11.3 95% 0.38, 38.0) and proximity to the football field (OR: 13.9, 95% 4.0, 48.4). The integration of UAV mapping with other data streams adds to our understanding of these dynamics.

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