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World Health Day observed


This news story was published on April 7, 2014.
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Small bite, big threat. Mosquitoes, flies, ticks and bugs may be a threat to your health – and that of your family - at home and when travelling. This is the message of this year’s World Health Day, on 7 April. Credit: WHO

Small bite, big threat. Mosquitoes, flies, ticks and bugs may be a threat to your health – and that of your family – at home and when travelling. This is the message of this year’s World Health Day, on 7 April. Credit: WHO

NIT – World Health Day is being observed today across the world, with a focus this year on vector-borne diseases.

Climate change, altered habitats and increased international trade and travel are exposing more people to this threat, officials said.

Vector-borne diseases are bacteria, viruses, or parasites transmitted to people by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas. These diseases are also frequently zoonoses, meaning they can be transmitted between animals and people. Malaria, lymphatic filariasis, dengue, and chikungunya are just a few examples of vector-borne diseases. The pathogens mosquitoes transmit sicken and kill millions of people each year. The tiny bloodsuckers, together with ticks and fleas, threaten people around the world with diseases that can be debilitating and sometimes fatal.

Vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue threaten more than half the world’s population. Now, lesser known diseases like chikungunya and Zika are moving into new areas, posing an increasing threat to travelers and for introduction into the United States and other areas where they haven’t previously been found. The mosquitoes that spread these viruses have a huge geographic range, including in parts of the United States.

“By profoundly affecting people’s health, vector-borne diseases are a serious impediment to poverty reduction and sustainable development,” a United Nations official said.\

The World Health Organization is highlighting the serious and increasing threat of vector-borne diseases, with the slogan: “Small bite, big threat” . The agency’s newly published global brief on vector-borne diseases outlines steps that governments, community groups and families can all take to protect people from infection.

“A global health agenda that gives higher priority to vector control could save many lives and avert much suffering. Simple, cost-effective interventions like insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor spraying have already saved millions of lives,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “No one in the 21st century should die from the bite of a mosquito, a sandfly, a blackfly or a tick.”

The WHO stresses that environmental changes, a massive increase in international travel and trade, changes in agricultural practices and rapid unplanned urbanization are causing an increase in the number and spread of many vectors worldwide and making new groups of people, notably tourists and business travellers, vulnerable.

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