Vector diseases: More entomologists, cross-border co-op needed, says WHO

Calling for immediate measures against vector-borne diseases in South East Asia region, the WHO on Saturday said there is an urgent need for more trained entomologists in the region, followed by collaboration of cross-border programmes on vector control.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), countries also need to establish and strengthen effective entomological surveillance systems.

The surveillance systems can help study local mosquito species, their susceptibility to insecticides, monitor insecticide resistance, as well as vector and human behaviours that may allow mosquitoes to avoid interventions and thereby maintain disease transmission.

“There is a need to collaborate to fill the gap of trained entomologists, strengthen cross-border collaboration for vector control and align their vector control programmes,” said Poonam Singh Khetrapal, Regional Director for WHO South East Asia Region Office (SEARO).

Khetrapal was speaking at the 70th Regional Committee Session of WHO South East Asia Region being held in Male.

According to the global health body, Vector-borne diseases account for more than 17 per cent of all infectious diseases, causing more than 1 million deaths annually. With South East Asia region having the highest burden of vector diseases, more than 2.5 billion people in over 100 countries are at risk of contracting dengue alone.

One of the emerging factors that is putting South East Asian countries on the backfoot against vector diseases is the scarcity of trained entomologists.

The global health body reiterated that proven and cost-effective interventions, such as the use of insecticidal nets, indoor spraying, use of larvicides and eliminating mosquito breeding sites need to be further promoted through stronger community engagement.

“Vector-borne diseases disproportionately affect poor populations and impede economic development through direct medical costs and indirect costs such as loss of productivity and impact on tourism. We need to prioritise action to prevent and respond to these diseases,” Khetrapal said.

Stating that region bore a high burden of vector-borne diseases, including dengue, malaria and lymphatic filariasis, Khetrapal said: “Though all countries in the region have been making efforts to address the problem, the full potential of vector control is yet to be realised.”

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