World Health Day: Small Bite: Big Threat

7th April 2014 is known as World Health Day. The topic this year is vector-borne diseases. Out of the 17 diseases on its list, the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases prioritizes seven vector-borne diseases. These are dengue, Chagas disease, human African trypanosomiasis, the Leishmaniases, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis and schistosomiasis.

Today, more than half of the world’s population is at risk from vector-borne diseases.

What are vector borne diseases?
Vectors are organisms that transmit pathogens and parasites from one infected person (or animal) to another, causing serious diseases in human populations. These diseases are commonly found in tropical and sub-tropical regions and places where access to safe drinking-water and sanitation systems is problematic.

Vector-borne diseases account for 17% of the estimated global burden of all infectious diseases. The most deadly vector-borne disease, malaria, caused an estimated 627 000 deaths in 2012.

However, the world’s fastest growing vector-borne disease is dengue, with a 30-fold increase in disease incidence over the last 50 years.

What are Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)?
NTDs are devastating, chronic diseases that keep people from living to their fullest potential. Out of the 17 diseases on the vector-borne diseases list, the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases prioritizes seven vector-borne diseases as NTDs. NTDs affect the world’s poorest, most marginalized populations, primarily in tropical climates. NTDs are bacterial and parasitic infections.

What are the effects of NTDs?
NTDs blind, disable, disfigure and stigmatize. NTDs cause swelling, anemia, malnutrition, pregnancy complications, stunted growth, cognitive impairment and social discrimi nation.

Without treatment, NTDs keep people and communities trapped in a cycle of poverty. NTDs keep children from going to school, learning and growing in the best way possible. NTDs prevent adults from working and caring for their families.

Can people have more than one NTD?
Yes. Over a billion people worldwide are affected by one or more NTDs. Living conditions in rural villages, without access to clean
water or basic sanitation, makes it more likely for people to get more than one NTD.

What is the treatment for NTDs?
A simple packet of pills treats and protects one person per year against the most common NTDs. NTD treatment is safe and highly

Multiple NTDs can be treated at once through community- wide distribution programs. In at risk – communities, everyone takes the treatment to prevent the diseases from spreading. Since NTD pills are safe and highly effective, people with just a small amount of training can distribute them.

Unlike other disease, NTDs do not need people with medical training or medical facilities. Teachers and community health workers can distribute treatment pills using existing infrastructure, such as schools and community centers.

Are vaccines used for the seven most common NTDs?
No, the most common NTDs are treated and prevented with safe and effective pills.

India and NTDs

  1. India is at the tipping point of achieving NTD control and elimination – India runs the largest national NTD programs in the world
  2. India accounts for 35 percent of the total global burden of NTDs
  3. Over 500 million Indians are at risk of the five NTDs.
  4. Only 40 percent of school-age children currently receive de-worming; India must achieve at least 75 percent coverage

Does India have all seven of the most common NTDs?
There are five main NTDs present in India.They are:

  1. Intestinal worms (roundworm, hookworm, whipworm)
  2. Lymphatic Filariasis (Elephantiasis)
  3. Trachoma
  4. Onchocerciasis (River blindness)
  5. Schistosomiasis (Snail fever)

What is the Indian government doing to address NTDs?
India’s national NTD programs are some of the largest and longest-running efforts in the world. India’s national NTD efforts have protected millions of people of all ages.

India’s success with NTDs is a win for the world. When India makes breakthroughs for NTDs, global efforts to end NTDs will also benefit. India’s at the cusp of making breakthroughs on NTDs.

Renewing commitments to expand the ability to deliver treatments, build public-private partnerships and close funding gaps will help India end the NTD burden by the end of this decade.

As an initiative to eradicate NTDs, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, an initiative of the
Sabin Vaccine Institute has launched a campaign called “END7“. END7 hopes to eliminate NTDs in countries like India by 2020.

With inputs from: World Health Organization

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