Editorial: Warning up on vector-borne diseases

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

THE World Health Organization (WHO) is focusing on vector-borne diseases as it prepares for World Health Day next month.

Vectors are organisms that carry pathogens and parasites from one person or animal to another.

The most deadly vector-borne disease, malaria, caused an estimated 660,000 deaths in 2010. But the fastest growing vector-borne disease is dengue, which WHO said, has marked a 30-fold increase in the last five decades.


Other vector-borne diseases in the WHO list for Southeast Asia are: Chikungunya, a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes; Leishmaniasis, an infection caused if bitten by female sandflies; and, lymphatic filiarisis, an infection filarial parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquitoes.

It is worth noting that of the five vector-borne diseases in the region, four have mosquitoes as their carriers. Thus, the need to ensure that the community is kept clean and mosquitoes are deprived of breeding areas remain a key concern of each household and barangay.

In all cases, prevention is always cheaper than a cure, and can even save lives.

Dengue, being the most prevalent these days, have seen many a family lose a loved one – mostly children – all because of one mosquito bite, while many others have had to suffer the anxiety of watching the blood platelets of a family member dip to critical levels in the hospital.

The threat is real and recognizes no economic status. Everyone is prone for as long as the carriers abound.

The excruciating version of the disease also carried by the Aedes aegypti, the same mosquito that carries dengue, and Aedes albopictus is the chikungunya, which has already been reported in the Philippines.

Derived from a Kimakonde (from Tanzania and Mozabique) word meaning “to become contorted”, this describes how contorted the patient becomes because of joint pains. While most patients recover after a few days, the joint pains will persist for weeks and even months. Though not fatal, the pain it brings is a suffering one would rather not go through.

Lymphatic filiariasis is infection with the filarial worms, Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi or B. timori transmitted by an infected mosquito and develop into adult worms in the lymphatic vessels. The disfiguring swelling of Elephantiasis is a late-stage sign of the disease. It can be treated with drugs, but some may acquire chronic conditions that will need surgery.

These are diseases that are best prevented, and the prevention starts at home.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 12, 2014.


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