The impact of dengue illness on social distancing and caregiving behavior

Kathryn L. Schaber, Amy C. Morrison, William H. Elson, Helvio Astete-Vega, Jhonny J. Cordova-Lopez, Esther Jennifer Rıos Lopez, W. Lorena Quiroz Flores, Alfonso S. Vizcarra Santillan, Thomas W. Scott, Lance A. Waller, Uriel Kitron, Christopher M. Barker, T. Alex Perkins, Alan L. Rothman, Gonzalo M. Vazquez-Prokopec, John P. Elder, Valerie A. Paz-Soldan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Human mobility among residential locations can drive dengue virus (DENV) transmission dynamics. Recently, it was shown that individuals with symptomatic DENV infection exhibit significant changes in their mobility patterns, spending more time at home during illness. This change in mobility is predicted to increase the risk of acquiring infection for those living with or visiting the ill individual. It has yet to be considered, however, whether social contacts are also changing their mobility, either by socially distancing themselves from the infectious individual or increasing contact to help care for them. Social, or physical, distancing and caregiving could have diverse yet important impacts on DENV transmission dynamics; therefore, it is necessary to better understand the nature and frequency of these behaviors including their effect on mobility. Methodology and principal findings: Through community-based febrile illness surveillance and RT-PCR infection confirmation, 67 DENV positive (DENV+) residents were identified in the city of Iquitos, Peru. Using retrospective interviews, data were collected on visitors and home-based care received during the illness. While 15% of participants lost visitors during their illness, 22% gained visitors; overall, 32% of all individuals (particularly females) received visitors while symptomatic. Caregiving was common (90%), particularly caring by housemates (91%) and caring for children (98%). Twenty-eight percent of caregivers changed their behavior enough to have their work (and, likely, mobility patterns) affected. This was significantly more likely when caring for individuals with low “health-related quality of well-being” during illness (Fisher’s Exact, p = 0.01). Conclusions/Significance: Our study demonstrates that social contacts of individuals with dengue modify their patterns of visitation and caregiving. The observed mobility changes could impact a susceptible individual’s exposure to virus or a presymptomatic/clinically inapparent individual’s contribution to onward transmission. Accounting for changes in social contact mobility is imperative in order to get a more accurate understanding of DENV transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0009614
JournalPLoS neglected tropical diseases
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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