World Health Day 2014: Small Bite, Big Threat

‘Protect yourself and your environment from vector-borne diseases’

April 7 is World Health Day (WHD). Mosquitoes, flies, ticks and bugs may be a threat to your health – and that of your family – at home and when travelling. This is the message of this year’s WHD.

The theme for WHD 2014 is: “Small bite, big threat: protect yourself and your environment from vector-borne diseases.”

Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour Hon. Cornelius de Weever as part of his ‘Get Checked’ campaign is calling on the populace to reflect on Monday, April 7 World Health Day with respect to the threats posed to the Sint Maarten community where dengue and chikungunya are concerned both vector-borne diseases, and to continue to take measures to prevent the aforementioned.

Vectors are organisms that transmit pathogens and parasites from one infected person (or animal) to another, causing serious diseases in human populations.

These diseases are commonly found in tropical and sub-tropical regions and places where access to safe-drinking water and sanitation systems is problematic.

Roughly 50 per cent of people living in the Western Hemisphere are at risk of one or more diseases carried by mosquitoes, ticks, flies and other vectors, including West Nile virus, dengue, malaria and most recently chikungunya.

Vector-borne diseases account for 17 per cent of the estimated global burden of all infectious diseases. The most deadly vector-borne disease, malaria, caused an estimated 627,000 deaths in 2012.

However, the world’s fastest growing vector-borne disease is dengue, with a 30-fold increase in disease incidence over the last 50-years.

These diseases cause a high burden of illness and death for individuals and families according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

The burden leads to school absenteeism, worsening of poverty, a negative impact on economic productivity, high health care costs and an overburden health care system in various countries.

Vector-borne diseases most common in the Americas are malaria, dengue, chagas disease, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, and trachoma.

PHOTO CUTLINE: Minister of Public Health Hon. Cornelius de Weever.