Vector-borne diseases - Causes, Symptoms and Protection

Vector-borne diseases - Causes, Symptoms and Protection

Do you know what vector-borne diseases are? Vector is an agent that does not itself cause any disease but spreads infection by carrying disease causing microorganisms between humans or from animals to humans. Many of the vectors are bloodsucking insects, which ingest the disease-causing microorganisms when they suck the blood of an infected human or animal and later inject it into a new host. One of the disease vectors found most commonly in our surroundings are mosquitoes. Others include ticks, flies, sandflies, triatomine bugs, blackflies, tsetse flies, mites, snails and lice. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, vector-borne diseases account for more than 17% of all infectious diseases and cause more than 700,000 deaths every year. In the last decade, the cases of mosquito-related diseases like malaria, dengue, and chikungunya increased drastically. The WHO has revealed that about 40% of the world’s population is at risk of malaria and two-fifths of the world's population is at risk from dengue. Also read: How To Prevent Dengue

Find out some of the vector-borne diseases here:

#1. Malaria

Malaria is caused by a parasite called plasmodium and one of the most common vector-borne diseases. Malaria is an infectious disease where the red blood cells of human beings or animals are affected by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. According to the WHO, malaria causes more than 400,000 deaths every year globally, most of them children under 5 years of age. Symptoms:
  • High intermittent fever
  • Body ache, especially in the lower back
  • Weakness
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Vomiting
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Constipation

#2. Dengue

Dengue is caused by the bite of a female Andes Mosquito which leads to a viral infection in the body. Dengue is not an infectious disease like malaria and does not affect the red blood cells and platelets.The dengue mosquito bites a person in the day time. As per WHO figures, more than 3.9 billion people in over 128 countries are at risk of contracting dengue, with 96 million cases estimated per year. Symptoms:
  • Fever
  • Body pain especially behind the eyes
  • Headache
  • Respiratory problem
  • Decreased urine
  • Increased bleeding
  • Weakness
  • Nausea

#3. Chikungunya

Chikungunya is also caused by the female Aedes mosquitoes that cause dengue but this disease mostly affects the muscle cells of the body. Though dengue and chikungunya are carried by the same mosquito (Aedes aegypti) , they are caused by different viruses. If Chikungunya lasts long it can cause very severe limb pain and weakness that may last several months. Also read: The Best Ways To Protect Your Child From Mosquito Bites When Outdoors Symptoms:
  • Pain in the abdomen, back of the eyes, joints, or muscles
  • Fever
  • Chills /Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Persistent joint pain
  • Skin rash

#4. Zika 

In 2016, WHO declared the Zika virus as a global public health emergency. This virus causes a rare birth defect named as microcephaly. This is a neurological disorder that results in babies being born with abnormally small heads and developmental issues. The Zika virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Symptoms:
  • Pain in the back of the eyes, joints, or muscles
  • Whole body fatigue
  • Fever and chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating / eye redness / skin rash / vomiting/ headache

#5. Lymphatic filariasis 

Lymphatic filariasis, which is also known as elephantiasis, is an infection that attacks the lymphatic system and causes painful, swollen limbs. It is caused by three parasitic filarial worms, out of which Wuchereria bancrofti is the cause of 99.4 percent cases in India. This parasite is spread by the Culex mosquito. This parasite infects around 120 million worldwide and almost 1.4 billion people are at risk of contracting it. The Indian government has launched efforts to eliminate the same. Also read: How to eliminate mosquito bite scars from your baby’s skin Symptoms:
  • Swelling or swollen lymph nodes


It is difficult to prevent against most of these vector-borne diseases since no vaccine exists for protection against them. The best prevention from vector-borne diseases is to avoid mosquitoes.
  • Wear clothes that cover you completely from neck to toe. Wearing light-colored clothing is even better, as mosquitoes are attracted to dark and bright colours.
  • Use insect repellent when outdoors. Make sure the repellent contains the chemical DEET. Before you start applying, read the product instructions carefully. Put repellent on exposed skin and clothing, but not on skin underneath your clothing. Keep mosquito repellent away from the eyes and mouth.
  • Avoid outdoor activities during peak mosquito hours from dusk until dawn if you can.
  • Install screens on the windows in your home and repair screens with rips or tears.
  • Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, so, get rid of any standing water around your home, such as water that has collected in flower pots, trash cans, rain gutters or swimming pool covers.
Also read: Safe way to Protect your Child from Mosquito Bites Want to share your experience as a mom with other moms through words or images? Become a part of the Moms United community. Click here and we will get in touch with you