HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Every minute Esther Volper spends in a secured room studying mosquitoes in mesh-covered boxes is another minute of information gathering that could lead to a vaccine for dengue fever.
"Tens of thousands of people die from dengue each year," the researcher said.
The death of champion surfer Andy Irons has re-surfaced dengue discussion.
At the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, researchers are close to perfecting a quicker way to diagnose dengue.
"The desire of everyone that works on dengue is for it to impact public health, and for those people that are affected with dengue virus, for there to be proper diagnostics so that everyone including the clinicians can know as quickly as possible if someone has dengue," Volper said.
Dengue symptoms are milder the first time a person is infected but a second infection from another serotype can be dangerous.
Confirming a case of dengue fever now takes days.
Volper said a procedure UH developed cuts diagnosis down to hours. She and her colleagues are also studying how dengue is transmitted.
"If we could lower the amount of people that are getting infected by the virus, that would have a huge impact on public health," she said.
UH rears mosquitoes that can spread dengue, infects them with the virus, and observes what happens.
The school recently received an $11 million grant.
Some of the money is designated to dengue research and the search for answers to a viral disease that can be a killer.