Small bite, big threat

Monday, April 07, 2014


Islamabad: Vector-borne diseases (VBDs) account for 17% of the estimated global burden of all infectious diseases. The control of vectors demands that different sectors enter into collaboration for implementation of an integrated vector management approach.

This is the crux of the World Health Day 2014 message of Dr. Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean. He has called upon the ministries of health, agriculture, irrigation and municipalities, as well as communities, to work together towards this goal. “In this way, we can tackle more than one disease at a time, and focus on reducing the use of chemicals to control vectors.”

The aim of World Health Day 2014 is to raise awareness of the problem of VBDs and encourage individuals and communities to take action to protect themselves against the vectors that cause disease. Vectors are organisms that transmit pathogens and parasites from one infected person (or animal) to another, putting health at risk, at home and during travels.

Lack of vaccines is one of the key challenges in preventing VBDs. “But there are things people can do to protect themselves. Keep the environment clean. Use personal protection, such as insect repellent. Sleep under bed nets, cover water containers, and get rid of stagnant water from places where mosquitoes breed, such as unused containers, flower pots, old tyres, broken glass and roof gutters,” Dr. Alwan informs.

Pakistan being a subtropical country has a rich fauna of disease vectors that includes mosquitoes, sandflies, houseflies, biting midges, ticks, lice, mites, fleas, cockroaches, and bed bugs which account for a number of VBDs. Major VBDs in the country include malaria, leishmaniasis, Dengue Fever, Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever and Crimean Congo Haemmorhagic Fever.

Malaria accounts for 16% of Pakistan’s disease load. Leishmaniasis is also showing rising trend, particularly in Balochistan, Sindh and FATA. Since 2005-06, Pakistan is facing regular outbreaks of dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever.

In Pakistan, VBDs, particularly malaria and dengue, always flourish after the monsoon season, when more than 80% of the country’s total VBDs caseload is reported. In Pakistan, the major malaria transmission period is July to November. The control interventions therefore must be implemented well before the disease transmission period.

Although a vaccine does exist for yellow fever, there are an estimated 200,000 cases worldwide each year, and about 30,000 of those with yellow fever will die, as there is of yet no cure. Some vector-borne diseases such as leishmaniasis disfigure those infected, often resulting in stigmatization.

WHO has urged governments to ensure that they have strong surveillance systems and that proper and rapid diagnosis and treatment are available to save lives.

In her message on the occasion, minister of state for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar said, the government is cognizant of the problem and a national strategy for vector control 2013 has been provided to the provinces to serve as a guideline to fight and prevent vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria. The government is also providing free LLIN nets, free diagnosis and treatment of all patients of malaria.

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