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“Small bite, big threat” – the World Health Organization raises awareness of vector-borne diseases on World Health Day 2014

To highlight a major threat to the health of people around the world, this year’s World Health Day will raise awareness of vector borne diseases and the steps that can be taken to prevent them.


What is a vector?

“Vectors” are living organisms which can transmit infectious diseases between humans or from animals to humans. Vectors include mosquitoes, ticks, flies, sandflies, fleas, triatomine bugs and some types of water snail. Diseases passed to humans in this way include malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis, among others.


Around the world there are more than a billion cases of vector-borne diseases every year, resulting in more than a million deaths. It is the world’s poorest populations who are most at risk for these diseases, especially those living in places where housing and access to clean water and sanitation are inadequate. It is estimated that malaria alone kills more than 600,000 people every year, most of them young children.


Find out more about vector-borne diseases by reading the WHO Factsheet.


Preventing vector-borne diseases

The good news, and one of the WHO’s key messages for World Health Day, is that these diseases are preventable. For example, schistosomiasis, which is transmitted by water snails, can be controlled by treating people at risk of the disease with a safe and effective medicine and improving access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Children who live and play near infested water are especially vulnerable to schistosomiasis, which can cause anemia and a reduced ability to learn.


Taking action on World Health Day

The WHO has published “A global brief on vector-borne diseases” which outlines steps that governments, community groups and families can all take to protect people from infection. On World Health Day the organization and its supporters around the world will use the slogan “Small bite, big threat” to educate people about vector-borne diseases and call for more action to be taken to prevent then. Find out more about the WHO’s campaign here.