Are Mexican Elementary Schools a Breeding Ground for Dengue fever?

Dengue fever, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes, appears in more than 100 countries with an estimated 50 million dengue infections worldwide every year.

This study by Oliver Mendoza-Cano, our Visiting Scientist in Sustainable Technologies and Health, and his colleague, analyzed the effect of reducing transmission in elementary schools on the dengue epidemic in Colima, Mexico.

In Mexico, many objects and areas in schools can serve as breeding sites for dengue-carrying mosquitos, such as bottles, tires, roofs, and plastics from recycling programs. Janitors are generally trained to maintain clean classrooms, but they do not perceive the presence of mosquitoes as a health threat. It is not part of their job description or training to be able to locate, clean, or report breeding sites.

This study involved a campaign to train school janitors to locate and avoid mosquitoes’ breeding places, the objective being to maintain elementary schools free of mosquitoes.

At the end of the study, researchers observed a 45% reduction in dengue incidence in Colima, Mexico, compared to the previous year. In contrast, the rest of Mexico observed an 81% increase in incidence on average.

The researchers concluded that the potential effects of reducing transmission at the school level is worthy of consideration, especially taking into account that the education of personnel associated with the maintenance of schools is inexpensive.


Hernández-Suárez, Carlos M.; Mendoza-Cano, Oliver. Empirical evidence of the effect of school gathering on the dynamics of dengue epidemics. Global Health Action, [S.l.], v. 9, jan. 2016. ISSN 1654-9880. 

Photo by Wikimedia | Wellcome Images | CC BY 4.0

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Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH

Aaron Bernstein is the Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

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