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Small Bite, Big Threat: World Health Day

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April the 7th was world health day! And the World Health Organization has decided to focus on vector-borne diseases and their prevention.

Each year over a million people across the world are killed by vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and Japanese encephalitis, with millions more suffering because of them (Schistosomiasis alone affects nearly 240 million people worldwide.)

Over 40% of the world’s population is at risk from vector-borne diseases, yet typically it is the poorest populations that are most at risk. Great steps towards reducing the effects of these disease through the use of insecticidal nets, indoor residual spraying , along with the reduction and control of breeding habitats for the insects and organisms which spread the disease.

But over the last few years these efforts have been muted by increases in the levels of these diseases, caused by global warming, changes to agricultural practice and increased international trade and travel.

One group the WHO highlights as being at more risk than ever is tourists and business travellers. With mosquitoes move to higher ground and urban areas due to warming climates, and the rapid expansion of urban areas without the appropriate planning and control of breeding environments, there has been an increase in the number of Malaria cases world wide caused by international travellers. The US reported a 40 year high for malaria cases in 2011, whilst Greece has seen the return of malaria after a 40 year absence.

The spread of vector-borne diseases across the world has driven the WHO’s focus for this year’s World Health Day with infographics and videos produced looking at the risks of travelling to at risk parts of the world, alongside the facts and figures of the human cost for these diseases

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The WHO recently published ‘A global brief on vector-borne diseases’ examining the cause and effects of 13 diseases, as well as the preventative steps that can be taken to reduce the impact of these diseases. Find the brief here.

The report looks at: MalariaDengueChikungunya, Yellow feverJapanese encephalitisLymphatic filariasis, Leishmaniases, Onchocerciasis (river blindness), Crimean-congo haemorrhagic fever, Lyme disease, Tick-born encephalitisSchistosomiasis, and Changas disease.

For more information on vector-born diseases and preventable diseases with a large impact on world health, take a look these features:

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