The 7th April, 2014 see’s World Health Day take centre stage when it aims to raise awareness of disease, in particular, vector born diseases. So what is a vector born disease and what it is it’s relevance to the worlds population?
Vector born disease
Mosquitos, flies, ticks, bugs and fresh water snails can all spread disease that leads to serious illness, and even death! In fact, death is the most likely outcome if someone in the third world were to get it…and they do, in fact more than 1 million people die of vector born diseases every year! 1 billion people worldwide suffer from a vector born disease every year, these include dengue, leishmaniasis, Lyme disease, schistosomiasis, yellow fever and of course…malaria. Vector born diseases have been well publicised in recent times because of high profile names such as Cheryl Cole coming close to death after contracting the disease whilst touring Africa. Cheryl’s case is a prime example of the increased risk in the developed world, this is almost definitely because of the increased travel, trade and migration that is occurring worldwide.
How does a vector born disease work?
A so called vector born disease gets its name from the organism that is responsible for its spread. A vector is any organism that carries and transmits an infectious pathogen (something that can cause disease) into a living organism, particularly a human. One of the best known forms of a vector is the mosquito, these spread disease by withdrawing blood from an infected human and transferring it to another when they inject them. Mosquito’s are a vector for a number of diseases, particularly malaria. The mosquito’s method of drawing blood from the host (human) via it’s mouthpart are actually a little less intrusive than say the sand fly or black fly, these nasty’s bite a hole into the skin so that it forms a pool of blood for them to feed from. These pool feeder anthropods are vectors for Leishmaniasis and Onchocerciasis. There are various diseases and various forms of transmission, so the need to get on top of this mode of infection is paramount for world safety!
Who do they effect?
A vector born disease effects everybody, it’s important to remember that, but it mainly effects the poorest communities worst, particularly where housing is poor, sanitation is insufficient and drinking water is largely unsafe. The malnourished population are also at a greater risk, a factor worth remembering considering the growing numbers of malnourished individuals in the UK. Consider the mosquito- borne dengue disease aka breakbone fever, a disease that is characterised by fever, headaches, muscle and joint pain, and a measles like skin rash. Dengue is now thought to be present in more than 100 countries, exposing in excess of 2.5 billion people (more than 40% of the worlds population) to this entirely preventable disease. Dengue has now been reported in developed countries such as China, Portugal and Florida in the USA!
The World Health Organisations (WHO) focus on vector born disease
World Health Day 2014 is pivotal in renewing focus on controlling disease and paying better attention to safe water, sanitation and hygiene. Of course, this focus isn’t for one day only, it’s a strategy which will be driven for years to come in the pursuit of a healthier world! Dr Lorenzo Savioli, Director of WHO’s Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases states:
“Vector control remains the most important tool in preventing outbreaks of vector-borne diseases. Increased funds and political commitment are needed to sustain existing vector-control tools, as well as medicines and diagnostic tools – and to conduct urgently needed research.”
The time to raise awareness was yesterday, the time to act is now!
World Health Organisation, (2014). Small bite: Big threat. World Health Day 2014: Preventing vector-borne diseases. Retrieved 7th April, 2014, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/small-bite-big-threat/en/