April 7, 2014
WHO– Vientiane| 7 April 2014| World Health Day which is celebrated on 7 April each year, gets to an early start in Lao People’s Democratic Republic this year as the spotlight is on the most commonly known vectors such as mosquitoes, sandflies, bugs, ticks and snails, which are responsible for transmitting a wide range of parasites and pathogens that attack both humans and animals.
WHO is highlighting the seriousness and increasing threat of vector-borne diseases, with the slogan “Small bite, big threat”. “A global health agenda that gives higher priority to vector control could save many lives and avert much suffering. Simple, cost-effective interventions like insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor spraying have already saved millions of lives,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “No one in the 21st century should die from the bite of a mosquito, a sandfly, a blackfly or a tick.”
The goal of the 2014 World Health Day’s campaign calls for better protection from vector-borne diseases which aims to raise awareness about the threat posed by vectors and vector-borne diseases and to encourage families and communities to take action to protect themselves. A core element of the campaign will be to provide communities with information.
WHO has filmed the launch of the Japanese encephalitis vaccine in Phonsaly Province on 25 March this year as part of our campaign to mark World Health Day. The film will also include dengue prevention in Tad Thong village, Sikhothabong district in Vientiane Capital. Info-graphic and factsheet on vector borne disease will be shared with our Lao community.
A newly published “A global brief on vector-borne diseases” outlines steps that governments, community groups and families can all take to protect people from infection. Copies of the publication is available for download from our website: http://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2014/global-brief/en/
Mosquitoes, for example, not only transmit malaria and dengue, but also lymphatic filariasis, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever. As Lao PDR encountered the worst dengue epidemic in 2013 and continues to battle malaria in the southern provinces, the theme for this year’s World Health Day celebration is relevant to the country as it prepares itself ahead of the rainy season.
The most deadly vector-borne disease, malaria caused an estimated 660 000 deaths in 2010, mostly among African children. The world’s fastest growing vector-borne disease is dengue, with a 30-fold increase in disease incidences over the last 50 years.
Malaria is endemic in Lao People’s Democratic Republic; the most recent malaria outbreak in 2012 reported 30 districts in six southern provinces reaching outbreaks levels, and a three-fold increase with a total of 46,101 cases in 2012 compared to 17,532 in 2011. The six most affected southern provinces are Attapeu, Saravane, Champassak, Savannakhet, Sekong and Khammouane provinces.
In 2013, Lao PDR also experienced one of the worse dengue epidemics in its history. As of 14 July 2013, there were a total of 25,027 cumulative cases of dengue reported including 71 deaths. Five provinces with the highest incidence of dengue include Salavanh, Bokeo, Xayaboury, Bolikhamxay and Sekong.
Lymphatic filariasis, chikungunya and Japanese encephalitis were also reported in small numbers in Lao PDR. Many people know about vectors and vector-borne disease, which are organisms that transmit pathogens and parasites from one infected person (or animal) to another. They are most commonly found in tropical areas and places where access to safe drinking water and sanitation systems is a problem.
Globalization of trade and travel and environmental challenges such as climate change and urbanization are having an impact on transmission of vector-borne diseases, and causing their appearance in countries where they were previously unknown, or aggravating problems in developing countries where large areas are cleared for development.
In recent years, renewed commitments from Ministries of Health, Regional and Global Health Initiatives supported by foundations, development partners, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and the scientific community have helped to lower the incidence and death rates from some vector-borne diseases.
“Vector control remains the most important tool in preventing outbreaks of vector-borne diseases,” says Dr Lorenzo Savioli, Director of WHO’s Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. “Increased funds and political commitment are needed to sustain existing vector-control tools, as well as medicines and diagnostic tools – and to conduct urgently needed research.”
In countries where vector-borne diseases are a public health problem, Ministries of Health have to put in place measures to improve the protection of their populations; to improve integrated surveillance of vectors and to take measures to prevent their proliferation. WHO is calling for a renewed focus on vector control and better provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene – key strategies outlined in WHO’s 2011 Roadmap for the control, elimination and eradication of neglected tropical diseases, which sets targets for the period 2012–2020.
For more information please contact:
Ms Irene Tan, Communications Officer, WHO Lao PDR
For more information about this year’s World Health Day: www.who.int/world-health-day