Each year on 7 April, World Health Day is celebrated to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation and to draw attention to a chosen public health issue.
The topic for this year’s World Health Day is vector borne diseases – that is, illnesses spread by mosquitoes, sandflies, bugs, ticks and snails such as malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever.
These diseases are preventable, but they have the biggest impact on some of the world’s poorest people. Vector-borne diseases are most common in tropical climates and places where access to safe drinking water and sanitation systems is poor. In these settings, vector-borne diseases are among the biggest causes of death and unwellness.
Malaria, the most deadly vector-borne diseases, caused an estimated 660,000 deaths in 2010, most of whom were African children. While significant progress has been made in combating malaria, other diseases such as dengue fever continue to spread at alarming rates.
The central aim of this year’s campaign is to increase awareness of the threat presented by vector-borne diseases, and to provide information to vulnerable communities to empower them to protect themselves.
(Infographic: World Health Organisation. Main image: World Health Organisation/ S Hollyman)
World Health Day 2014 goals
- For families in areas where vector-borne diseases are commonly spread to know how to protect themselves.
- For travellers to know how to protect themselves when visiting countries or areas that pose a vector threat.
- For ministries of health in countries where vector-borne diseases are common to take action to improve public protection.
- For health authorities in countries where vector-borne diseases are an emerging threat to work with neighbouring countries to improve surveillance of vectors and to take measures to prevent their spread.
Key things you should know about vector-borne diseases
- Vectors spread diseases. Mosquitoes, flies, ticks, bugs and freshwater snails can spread diseases that cause serious illness and death.
- Diseases are preventable. Diseases such as malaria, dengue, leishmaniasis and yellow fever are preventable, yet they have the biggest impact on some of the world’s poorest people.
- 50 per cent of population is at risk. More than half of the world’s population is at risk of these diseases. Increased travel, trade and migration make even more people vulnerable.
- Simple protection measures can help. You can protect yourself and your family while travelling by taking simple measures that include sleeping under a bednet, wearing a long-sleeved shirt and trousers and using insect repellent.