Vector-borne diseases are infections that can be transmitted from one person or animal to another by vectors. Vectors are organisms that carry and spread pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, or protozoa. Some of the most common vectors are mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, flies, lice, and mites. Some of the most dangerous vector-borne diseases are malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, Zika virus, Lyme disease, plague, and leishmaniasis.
Vector-borne diseases are a major public health problem worldwide. They affect more than one billion people and cause more than 700,000 deaths every year. They are especially prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions, where climatic conditions favor the breeding and survival of vectors. However, they can also occur in temperate and cold regions, where vectors can adapt to changing environments or be introduced by travelers or animals.
In this article, you will learn more about the history, transmission, prevention, and treatment of vector-borne diseases. You will also learn how to protect yourself and others from these diseases.
A Brief History of Vector-Borne Diseases
The history of vector-borne diseases is intertwined with the history of human civilization. Since ancient times, people have been exposed to various pathogens that can cause vector-borne diseases. Some of the earliest recorded outbreaks of vector-borne diseases include the plague of Athens in 430 BC, the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793, and the malaria epidemic in Rome in 1823. These outbreaks killed thousands of people and affected the social and economic development of the affected regions.
However, it was not until the 19th and 20th centuries that significant advances were made in the fields of microbiology, entomology, immunology, epidemiology, and public health to understand and combat vector-borne diseases. In 1880, Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran discovered the parasite that causes malaria. In 1897, Ronald Ross discovered that malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes. In 1900, Walter Reed confirmed that yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes. In 1907, Charles Nicolle discovered that lice transmit typhus. In 1975, Willy Burgdorfer discovered the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
Since then, many more discoveries and innovations have been made to prevent and treat vector-borne diseases. Drugs such as quinine, chloroquine, artemisinin, doxycycline, and ivermectin have been developed to cure or prevent malaria and other parasitic infections. Vaccines such as yellow fever vaccine, Japanese encephalitis vaccine, tick-borne encephalitis vaccine, and dengue vaccine have been developed to induce immunity against viral infections. Insecticides such as DDT, pyrethroids, and malathion have been used to control or eliminate vectors. Integrated vector management (IVM) strategies have been implemented to combine different methods of vector control such as environmental management (reducing breeding sites), biological control (using natural enemies), chemical control (using insecticides), and personal protection (using repellents or bed nets).
How Vector-Borne Diseases Are Transmitted
Vector-borne diseases are transmitted when an infected vector bites a susceptible host and injects saliva containing the pathogen into the host’s bloodstream or skin. The pathogen can then multiply and spread within the host’s body and cause various symptoms. The transmission cycle of vector-borne diseases depends on several factors such as the type and characteristics of the pathogen, the type and behavior of the vector, the type and susceptibility of the host, and the environmental conditions.
There are two main types of transmission cycles for vector-borne diseases: zoonotic cycles and anthroponotic cycles. Zoonotic cycles involve animals as reservoirs (the place where the pathogen lives and multiplies) and humans as incidental hosts (the place where the pathogen accidentally infects). Anthroponotic cycles involve humans as reservoirs and humans as hosts.
Zoonotic cycles are common for vector-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, plague, leishmaniasis
Types of Hygiene for Preventing Communicable Diseases
There are different types of hygiene for preventing communicable diseases depending on the level and target of intervention. These include personal hygiene (hygiene practices performed by individuals for themselves), environmental hygiene (hygiene practices performed by individuals or groups for their surroundings), and medical hygiene (hygiene practices performed by health professionals for patients or health facilities).
Personal hygiene refers to the hygiene practices that individuals perform for themselves to maintain their health and well-being. These include:
- Washing hands with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer before and after eating, drinking, cooking, handling food, using the toilet, changing diapers, caring for sick people or animals, touching wounds or body fluids, and touching anything potentially contaminated.
- Brushing teeth with toothpaste and water at least twice a day and flossing daily to prevent dental caries, gum disease, and bad breath.
- Bathing or showering with soap and water at least once a day and changing into clean clothes to remove dirt, sweat, oil, and germs from the skin and hair.
- Trimming or shaving hair, nails, or skin as needed to prevent infections, injuries, or infestations.
- Washing or changing underwear, socks, and towels daily and other clothes as needed to prevent odors, stains, or diseases.
- Cleaning ears with a soft cloth or cotton swab gently to remove excess wax or debris.
- Cleaning nose with a tissue or saline spray gently to remove mucus or dust.
- Cleaning eyes with water or eye drops gently to remove dirt or irritants.
- Cleaning genitals with water or mild soap gently to prevent infections or irritations.
- Cleaning anus with water or toilet paper gently after defecation to prevent infections or irritations.
Environmental hygiene refers to the hygiene practices that individuals or groups perform for their surroundings to maintain a healthy and safe environment. These include:
- Boiling, filtering, chlorinating, or treating water before drinking, cooking, washing, or bathing to prevent waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery, or hepatitis.
- Storing food in clean containers at appropriate temperatures and discarding spoiled food to prevent foodborne diseases such as salmonella, E. coli, botulism, or listeria.
- Cooking food thoroughly and washing fruits and vegetables before eating to prevent foodborne diseases such as campylobacter, norovirus, trichinosis, or toxoplasmosis.
- Cleaning dishes, utensils, and surfaces with soap and water or disinfectant after use to prevent foodborne diseases such as staphylococcus, shigella, clostridium, or rotavirus.
- Disposing of garbage in sealed bags or bins and recycling or composting organic waste to prevent pests such as rats, mice, cockroaches, flies, mosquitoes, or bedbugs that can transmit diseases such as plague, leptospirosis, typhus, malaria, dengue fever.
Hygiene is the practice of keeping oneself and one’s surroundings clean and free from dirt, germs, and disease. Hygiene is essential for maintaining good health and preventing communicable diseases. Communicable diseases are illnesses that can be transmitted from one person or animal to another through direct or indirect contact. They are caused by infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites that can invade the body and cause various symptoms. Some of the most common communicable diseases are influenza (flu), COVID-19, tuberculosis (TB), cholera, hepatitis, and HIV/AIDS.
In this article, you learned more about the history, importance, and types of hygiene. You also learned how to prevent and control communicable diseases by breaking the chain of infection with effective hygiene practices. You learned that there are different types of hygiene for preventing communicable diseases depending on the level and target of intervention. These include personal hygiene (hygiene practices performed by individuals for themselves), environmental hygiene (hygiene practices performed by individuals or groups for their surroundings), and medical hygiene (hygiene practices performed by health professionals for patients or health facilities).
We hope you found this article informative and helpful. If you have any questions or comments about hygiene or communicable diseases, please leave them below. We would love to hear from you. Thank you for reading!