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Cycle 7 (2018 Deadline)

Developing dengue risk predictions from environmental, entomological, and societal information to aid public health management in Sri Lanka

PI: Pahalagedera Hewayalage Dona Kusumawathie (, Tropical Climate Guarantee
U.S. Partner: Aravinda de Silva, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Dates: November 2018 - April 2022

Project Websites: htpps://

Project Overview:

Dengue is a major vector-borne viral disease that has become a serious public health problem in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, but the lack of a vaccine against it means that control programs rely on management of environmental and human factors. Dengue is highly intermittent, has some seasonality, and is showing an exponential rise in the last few decades (Hopp & Foley, 2003). Dengue outbreaks are primarily associated with climatic variables such as rainfall, temperature, and relative humidity. Usually peak transmission occurs after the rains in the areas where the mosquito population is high and temperature and humidity levels are optimal. Nevertheless, there can be situations where transmission is enhanced during droughts, as water storage becomes more important. Though the risk of epidemics is contingent on a complex set of social, environmental, climatic, and epidemiological factors and their prediction is fraught with uncertainty, climate is a critical factor. As there is a 1-2 month lag between heavy rains and dengue transmission, targeted weather monitoring can give advance warning of dengue risks and trigger alerts to the authorities to launch cleanup programs of potential breeding sites.

7-201 Balika Training7-201 Lab Test
Project team members teaching at the Muslim Balika Vidyalaya event.Dr. Kusumawathie preparing to observe mosquito eggs through the digital microscope (photos courtesy of Dr. Kusumawathie)

To address the problem of dengue in Sri Lanka, this project involves entomological surveillance, weather and climate impact analysis, vulnerability analysis, and the development of monitoring systems for mosquito abundance and vulnerability. The scientific objectives are to (1) identify relationships between prevalence and transmissivity of the dengue vectors and weather using routinely collected data; (2) identify relationships between abundance of vectors, incidence of dengue, and weather in the country’s Central Region; and (3) develop dengue risk prediction methodology based on weather for high-risk centers. Through these efforts the PI and her team will develop an early warning system for dengue risk using weather, climate, entomological and epidemiological information for Sri Lanka, working in close collaboration with the Central Province Health Department and National Dengue Control officials. These government officials will be engaged in helping to develop the risk prediction methodology and formats for dissemination. The PI and her team will share their results and recommendations with public health officers and other interested stakeholders via the Internet and in-person workshops.

Summary of Recent Activities:

During the last quarter of 2021, Dr. Kusumawathie reported that she and her team had been managing their activities reasonably well given the limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were problems as the public transport system was limited and restrictions were imposed on travel between districts. Staff had to work from home, which slowed things down, but the team still undertook some of the data gathering and literature reviews. In December 2021, they made three presentations virtually at the American Geophysical Union’s annual Fall Meeting, as well as six presentation during the annual research sessions for Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science.

With regard to data gathering and analysis, during this quarter they continued organizing, digitizing, and cleaning up the weather and air quality data and continued the statistical analysis related to Dengue cases and entomology for Matale District. Also, they were able to digitize and check the quality of the previously photographed entomology and Cases data for Nuwara Eliya District. They have updated the inventory of all available weather data. Mainly, they are working on updating the meteorological data (rainfall, temperature, humidity) up to 2021. There were some gaps in the climate data collection for Central Province, so the researchers approached the Meteorology Department and obtained the necessary data. To check the impact of spatial variability for Dengue cases in Matale district, the PI and her colleagues installed a new Automatic Weather Station instrument (AWS) at Gammaduwa, which is located near to the northwestern extent of the Knuckles mountain range. Air quality data were obtained from the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) for Battaramulla and Kandy for the period 2019 to the end of May 2021.

As the project moves towards its close at the end of April 2022, the researchers are working on multiple publication drafts on Dengue cases, entomology, and climate. They have also augmented their website focusing on climate and disease and their approach based on the use of environmental, climate, and vulnerability information. Apart from Dengue information, they have been populating and updating the site with information on COVID-19 and other emerging infectious diseases. The team has begun distributing a monthly interpretation of dengue risk based on the case load via social media, and they plan to incorporate climate-based risk predictions.

Recent Abstracts Presented

AGU Fall Meeting in New Orleans (Virtual and Physical) - 2021
  • Nijamdeen, K. Wickramasinghe, C. Kulasinghe, Z. Javad, Kusumawathie Pahalegedera, Towards a Dengue Early Warning System in Sri Lanka: Climatic influences on Dengue mosquito prevalence, Seasonal and Temporal Variability of Dengue Incidence around the Knuckles Mountain Range, American Geophysical conference 2021
  • A. Nijamdeen, K. Wickramasinghe, G. Sathyamohan, L. Zubair, The Xpress-Pearl Marine Disaster off Sri Lanka in May 2021: Atmospheric Transport of Pollution from the Fire and Explosion - Auditing Materials on board, Modeling Air Pollution Plumes and Air Pollution measurements in Sri Lanka, American Geophysical conference 2021
  • Z. Iwais, U. Adithya, A. Munas, N. Alahakoon, K. Wickramasinghe, L. Zubair, Is an IoT based Operational Air Quality Monitoring System Feasible for Sri Lanka?, American Geophysical conference 2021
  • N. Alahakoon, U. Adithya, A. Munas, L. Zubair, Lessons from Developing and Sustaining Climate Services in Sri Lanka and Maldives for 15 years: Provision of Weekly/Monthly Bulletins, Advisory Services and Forensic Analysis, American Geophysical conference 2021

SLAAS Annual Technical Session 2021
  • A.C.W.Kulasinghe, D.H.K.Wickramasinghe, A. Nijamdeen, P.H.D.Kusumawathie, L. Zubair , Dengue epidemic identification and its seasonal and spatial variability in the sub-districts of Matale district, Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS), Technical Session 2021
  • D.H.K.Wickramasinghe, A. Nijamdeen, A.C.W.Kulasinghe, P.H.D.Kusumawathie, L. Zubair, Seasonal and Spatial Variability of Prevalence of Dengue and its Transmitting Vectors in the Matale District, Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS), Technical Session 2021
  • D.H.K.Wickramasinghe, A. Nijamdeen, L. Zubair, Assessing the impact of the X-Press Pearl Ship Fire on air pollution in Western Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS), Technical Session 2021
  • S. Gobishankar, D.H.K.Wickramasinghe, A. Nijamdeen, L. Zubair, Simulating the dispersion of pollution in the atmospheric from the Fire about the X-Press Pearl Ship, Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS), Technical Session 2021
  • Z. Iwais, U. Adithya, A. Munas, N. Alahakoon, K. Wickramasinghe, L. Zubair, Is an IoT based operational air quality monitoring system feasible for Sri Lanka?, Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS), Technical Session 2021
  • S. Gammanpila, A. Nijamdeen, L. Zubair, Contamination of Groundwater and Soil and Risk of Further Transmission due to COVID19 Infected and Other Burials: Does Sri Lanka’s environment pose a unique risk?, Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS), Technical Session 2021

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