A team of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students has achieved a major milestone in tackling Dengue virus, a disease commonly spread through mosquito bites. The students, under the supervision of Thilanka Munasinghe, lecturer of information technology and web sciences, developed a geographic and health information system to prevent the spread of Dengue virus, while overcoming many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to remote learning and research.

A major health challenge, Dengue affects millions of people worldwide each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 100 million people get sick from Dengue annually, and 22,000 die of the disease. Knowing this, a team of interdisciplinary students including Karan Bhanot ’24, Dominic Schroeder ’22, Isaac Llewellyn ’21, and Nicholas Luczak ’20, wanted to develop an information system that could educate people about the virus, its spread, and its risk factors.

Understanding the importance of this topic, the students not only successfully developed the system, despite not having the opportunity work in-person with one another, they also submitted and had their findings accepted by the 2020 4th ACM International Conference on Medical and Health Informatics (ICMHI), which was held in August.

The information system, called Dengue Spread Information System (DSIS), was designed to highlight the spread of Dengue across Iquitos, Peru, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, from 1990 to 2013. Designed as an interactive web application, the system allows users to run queries to view data based on month and year. The data, provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, includes Dengue cases, precipitation, temperature, and more.

Presenting their findings virtually at ICMHI 2020 allowed the students to show researchers and policymakers how to analyze and interpret Dengue data to better create policies to prevent its spread. Their presentation allowed attendees to better understand the disease and its risk factors in order to fuel solutions for disease mitigation.