Background: Dengue viruses are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in tropical and subtropical areas. Our aim was to assess prospectively the burden of dengue-related illness in children in Thailand.
Methods: We did a prospective study in a cohort of children at primary school in northern Thailand from 1998 to 2002. We assessed the burden of dengue illness as disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and patient costs per illness.
Findings: Dengue accounted for 328 (11%) of the 3056 febrile cases identified in 2114 children during the study period. The mean burden of dengue was 465.3 (SD 358.0; range 76.5-954.0) DALYs per million population per year, accounting for about 15% of DALYs lost to all febrile illnesses (3213.1 [SD 2624.2] DALYs per million per year). Non-hospitalised patients with dengue illnesses represented a substantial proportion of the overall burden of disease, with 44-73% of the total DALYs lost to dengue each year due to such illness. The infecting dengue serotype was an important determinant of DALYs lost: DEN4 was responsible for 1% of total DALYs lost, DEN1 for 9%, DEN2 for 30%, and DEN3 for 29%.
Interpretation: Use of prospective data to estimate the burden of disease shows that most DALYs lost to dengue illness were the result of non-hospitalised illnesses of long duration. Thus, inclusion of non-hospitalised cases is critical to accurately assess the total burden of dengue illness.