The explosive epidemics of dengue that have been occurring in various countries have stimulated investigation into new approaches to improve understanding of the problem and to develop new strategies for controlling the disease. The objective of this study was to evaluate the characteristics of diffusion of the first dengue epidemic that occurred in the city of Salvador in 1995.
The epidemiological charts and records of notified cases of dengue in Salvador in 1995 constituted the source of data. The cases of the disease were georeferenced according to census areas (spatial units) and epidemiological weeks (temporal unit). Kernel density estimation was used to identify the pattern of spatial diffusion using the R-Project computer software program.
Of the 2,006 census areas in the city, 1,400 (70%) registered cases of dengue in 1995 and the spatial distribution of these records revealed that by the end of 1995 practically the entire city had been affected by the virus, with the largest concentration of cases occurring in the western region, composed of census areas with a high population density and predominantly horizontal residences compared to the eastern region of the city, where there is a predominance of vertical residential buildings.
The pattern found in this study shows the characteristics of the classic process of spreading by contagion that is common to most infectious diseases. It was possible to identify the epicenter of the epidemic from which centrifugal waves of the disease emanated. Our results suggest that, if a more agile control instrument existed that would be capable of rapidly reducing the vector population within a few days or of raising the group immunity of the population by means of a vaccine, it would theoretically be possible to adopt control actions around the epicenter of the epidemic and consequently reduce the incidence of the disease in the city. This finding emphasizes the need for further research to improve the technology available for the prevention of this disease.