Celebrating World Health Day: 10 vector-borne ailments that need attention and intervention

There are various types of ailments that affect human population every year and claim thousands of lives too. However, in recent years, vector borne ailments have become a serious health threat. To emphasize the importance of combating such diseases, WHO has highlighted the need for ‘Prevention of vector borne diseases’ this World Health Day, to be celebrated on 7th April 2014.

Nuances of vector borne diseases

Vector borne diseases can be described as ailments triggered by pathogens that are carried by insects and transmitted to humans. WHO is of the view that the growing menace of parasitic and viral infections caused by specific insects need to be dealt seriously by the governments and leading health entities worldwide. Nearly 1 million people succumb to vector borne diseases every year globally. These ailments impact the poorest populations more than others.

Resurgence of Vector borne ailments in recent times

The reason WHO is focusing on vector borne diseases is such ailments have re-emerged with an unprecedented aggression in the last decade. Owing to aspects like environmental changes, newer agricultural practices and unplanned rapid urbanization, these ailments are spreading to newer parts of the world. Recently dengue has affected the population in Portugal and China. In Greece, Malaria has returned after a gap of 40 years. These incidents prove that more vigilant observation by medical community is needed in such areas. WHO believes vector control is the key to prevent outbreaks of such ailments.

Below listed are top 10 vector borne ailments affecting global human population:

Malaria - WHO is of the view, Malaria caused by certain breeds of Mosquito, is the deadliest of existing vector-borne maladies. It is caused by protozoan parasite Plasmodium and commonplace variants are Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium flaciparum. The female Anopheles mosquito is the carrier of this parasite. When transmitted to human bodies by a mosquito bite, the protozoa attacks red blood cells and affects the liver, leading to symptoms like fever and anaemia.

Kala Azar- Leishmaniasis, also called kala azar is another fatal vector borne ailment. It exists mainly in nations like Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia and India. It is caused by a protozoan parasite belonging to Leishmania genus. Female sand flies acts as carrier of this parasite. It causes ulcers and assaults immune system in the human body.

Filariasis- Lymphatic filariasis also called elephantiasis is caused by filarial worms. It is another mosquito borne disease and affects the lymphatic system in the human body. The consequences include disfigurement but not fatality.

Dengue- Found mostly in tropical regions of the world, Dengue is caused by a virus carried by mosquitoes. Symptoms of dengue are fever, joint pain and headaches. The virus causing the ailments has 5 variants.

Chickungunya- This is a vector borne disease found in 40 other nations outside India. It is triggered by Togaviridae family virus, genus Alphavirus. Aedes mosquito works as its carrier. Its symptoms resemble that of dengue.

Plague- At the beginning of the 20th century, Plague assumed epidemic proportions. It is caused by a bacterium named Yersina pestis. Plague is transmitted mostly by rodents and insects. The bacteria get into bloodstream and attack human immune system.

Yellow fever- Found mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South American regions, yellow fever is another mosquito-borne disease. Female Aedes mosquito carries this virus. This virus targets immune system and causes muscle pain and nausea in victims.

Lyme disease- This ailment is triggered by a spirochete bacterium named Borrelia burgdorferi. Black-legged ticks that get afflicted with the bacteria transmit it to humans. This bacterium attacks CNS in the human body and paves way for neurological problems.

Chagas’ disease- This ailment is commonplace in Latin American communities. Transmitted by an insect called ‘kissing bug’ the ailment is caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, a protozoan parasite. It affects cardiac functions and damages other organs.

Japanese encephalitis- Infected Culex mosquito spreads this viral disease. This virus attacks CNS and causes meningitis, fever, tremors and in worse cases, coma. It has been found in Indian states like Kerala and Karnataka, and also in several other Asian countries as the name suggests.

This world’s health day, let us all pledge to give health paramount importance. By being educated and aware of the various diseases that plague us, and by knowing their symptoms, we can seek medical attention and ward away these diseases that can at time prove to be fatal.