By: John O. Davies-Cole, PhD, MPH, Professor at The George Washington University
A vector-borne disease is one in which an arthropod or other agent is responsible for transmitting a pathogen or disease-causing organism like, bacteria, virus or protozoa from an infected individual to another individual. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the most deadly vector-borne disease, malaria, kills over 1.2 million people annually, mostly African children under the age of five, and dengue fever, together with associated dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), is the worlds fastest growing vector borne disease. Nearly half of the worlds population suffers from vector-borne diseases, resulting in high morbidity and mortality. The most seriously affected parts of the world are the developing countries located in tropical and subtropical areas. Some examples of neglected vector-borne diseases include dengue/dengue hemorrhagic fever, human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) and onchocerciasis (river blindness).
It is projected that climate change will cause the spread of vector-borne diseases, and place additional stresses on ecosystems, thus bringing untold suffering to the rural poor, those in urban slums or in conflict zones. The most vulnerable in the population are the elderly, the young, the socially isolated, lower socioeconomic status families, those with preexisting conditions and the Immunocompromised (Having an immune system that has been impaired by disease or treatment).