Dengue has become the world’s fastest growing vector-borne disease, with a 30-fold increase in incidence over the past 50 years, the World Health Organization has revealed.
The organization is urging countries to prevent and control all vector-borne diseases such as chikungunya, dengue, kala-azar, lymphatic filariasis and malaria. These diseases account for 17 per cent of the estimated global burden of all infectious diseases.
The WHO made the appeal on the occasion of World Health Day, which falls on April 7.
“These are deadly but preventable diseases. The solution lies in a united and sustained effort from all of us. Ministries of health alone cannot control these diseases,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.
Forty per cent of the global population at risk of malaria lives in the WHO South-East Asia region, home to a quarter of the world’s population. Malaria is endemic in 10 of the 11 countries of the region: Bangladesh, Bhutan, North Korea, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
Dr Poonam said Maldives is the only country in the region that has remained free of malaria since 1984, but Sri Lanka has made remarkable progress in controlling it by bringing cases down from 203,000 in 2000 to zero locally acquired cases in November 2012.
She said the region recently eradicated polio, and “it is time for us to show the same resolve to defeat malaria, dengue and other vector-borne diseases.”
Lymphatic filariasis, another mosquito-borne disease, is linked to poverty and causes disfigurement and social stigma.
She said the region has 60 million infected people while 875 million are at risk of infection.
To stop its spread, WHO has recommended an annual mass drug administration of single doses of two medicines to all people in endemic areas.
“With mass drug administration, with effective coverage, there is no reason why diseases like lymphatic filariasis cannot be eliminated from the region,” said Dr Singh.