24tThe World Health Organization celebrates the World Health Day globally on 7th April annually to marl the anniversary of its origin and founding in 1948. The theme for this year is “Small Bite, Big threat: preventing vector borne diseases" to highlight an area of priority. This year the World Health Organization committed to creating awareness for travelers by use of promotional material such as posters and boarding pass cards at London Heathrow airport ad Washington DC ‘s Dulles’ airports where travelers were advised on how to protect themselves from vectors borne diseases while away from home. At Geneva, the headquarters and other offices around the world, various campaigns took place to educate the general public on the threat of vector diseases.
What are vectors? They are small organisms that serve as a medium for spreading diseases from person to person or place to place. They may be a threat to your health and that of your family at home and when traveling. Such vectors include mosquitoes, flies, ticks, freshwater snails, sandflies, rodents; insect vectors, lymphatic filariasis, chagas and bugs can cause serious illness, which may lead to death. These vectors transmit a wide range of parasites and pathogens that attack humans and animals. Diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, yellow fever, Ebola fever (currently endemic in Africa) to mention a few are preventable and they have a greater impact on the poorer and low income earners of the society.
About 50% of the general population is at risk of these diseases for people are more vulnerable due to travel, trade, migration, environmental changes such as climate change and industrialization, low immune system and various other factors. This year’s theme aims to promote and create awareness by focusing on the vectors that spread the disease, the disease they cause and simple precautions we can take to prevent the bite from these vectors.
Tips for preventing vector borne diseases
The following are tips to be considered to prevent borne diseases:
Ø Get vaccinated against diseases such as yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis.
Ø Clean your surroundings; ensure gutters are clean and free from all solids, get rid of all stagnant water that can be a breeding area for vectors
Ø Ensure you wear light colored long sleeves and trousers especially between dusk to dawn
Ø Use insect repellent as appropriate for mosquito prevention it should have at least 25% DEET content
Ø Use insect treated nets over beds for all family members to sleep
Ø Ensure the windows and doors of houses have net screens to prevent insects and other vectors from accessing your homes
Ø Prior to traveling, contact your health care provider, find out about the vectors in the country and take steps to prevent vector bites
Ø Frequent travelers should protect themselves when traveling to countries which pose health threat
Ø Government should put measures in place to improve the protection of the population
Ø Families living in vulnerable or vector prone areas should apply protective and preventive measures.
Ø Practice vector control and provision of safe water.
Diseases caused by vectors are preventable therefore bite prevention is the key.
Let us all join the global campaign with the World Health Organization to create
awareness, provide education for those who are less informed and promote this campaign.
The threat caused by a small bite can have devastating impact on a larger community.
The tips above can be applied to prevent bites, spread the word.
Written by O’ Reese on behalf of En-pact Solutions Limited. 2014.
Twitter: @O Reese2