Vector-borne diseases: what they are and how to prevent them

  • Sol Rivero

Today is the World Health Day, an initiative taken by the World Health Organization in order to spread awareness about the current worldwide health situation. Every year, a different theme is taken into consideration in order to educate and stop certain diseases. For 2014, the World Health Day is dedicated to vector-borne diseases, which affect almost half of the world population.

Want to learn more about them? Read on and discover what they are, and how to prevent them:


What are Vector-borne diseases?

Vector-borne diseases are highly dangerous afflictions which can be transmitted to humans and animals through other living organisms, such as mosquitoes, fleas, flies or ticks. Most of them can cause death or even secondary effects such as blindness or weakness, and although for a long time it was believed that this illnesses had disappeared from highly developed countries, the reality is that they’ve been reappearing and increasing as a consequence of climate change and frequent travels from one country to another due to commerce or recreation.

Some of the most common and dangerous vector-borne diseases are: malaria, yellow fever, chagas disease, dengue, etc. They appear in urban or rural environments, since these places have plenty of potential hosts: from animals to humans. Most of the vectors are also attracted by the ecological conditions of these places, in which garbage, puddles of dirty water, heat, etc. are abundant.


How to prevent Vector-borne diseases?

If you live in an area which contains large amounts of animals, humans, waste or any unhealthy conditions; or if you’ll be traveling to another country for a visit or for business, it’s very important you take measures in order to avoid acquiring vector-borne diseases. Some of the essential tips you can apply are:

If you’re travelling to another place

  • Before leaving, get information about the prevalent diseases of the area and get the proper vaccines against them.
  • Apply insect repellent to the areas of your skin which will be exposed.
  • Use window screens or bed nets in the place where you’ll be staying.
  • Regularly examine your clothes and belongings for insects. If you see any vector, clean them thoroughly and find sprays to exterminate them.


If you want to protect your home or workplace

  • Vaccinate against the predominant vector-borne diseases of your area.
  • Use window screens and bed nets if you’re in a risky place.
  • Eliminate and avoid pools of stagnant water.
  • Subject your home or workplace to indoor and outdoor residual spraying with insecticides to control vectors.    
  • Vaccinate and protect your pets against ticks, especially if they’re outdoors.
  • If you live in a risky area use clothes which don’t expose much of your skin, and protect the bare parts with insect repellant.


Remember: good habits and prevention are the best methods of living a long and healthy life.


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European centre for disease prevention and control. Vector-borne diseases.
World Health Organization. A global brief on vector-borne diseases.
World Health Organization Europe. How to avoid vector-borne diseases – Top tips.