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Common Vector-borne Diseases: Types, prevention, and symptoms

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

Vector-borne Diseases are a cause for concern in India. The National Center for Vector Borne Diseases Control estimates that approximately 95% of the Indian population lives in areas where Malaria alone is endemic. Annual fatalities due to such are also very high. Thus, you must be aware of the common Vector-borne Diseases, their types, prevention tips, and symptoms. This article has all you need to know about such conditions.




What is meant by a Vector-borne Disease?

Vector-borne Diseases are infections spread by the bites of infected insects, like ticks, mosquitoes, sandflies, bugs, or black flies. A person has a Vector-borne Disease if they become ill after getting bitten by a vector. Some Vector-borne illnesses, like the plague, have been around for a long time. Others have only lately been identified, including Bourbon and Heartland viruses. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are more than 7 lakh deaths around the globe because of Vector-borne Diseases. 

One of the most crucial worldwide health issues, Vector-borne Diseases, can have a heavy economic impact on the afflicted countries. Since these diseases are spread mainly by hematophagous arthropods, they are most common in tropical and subtropical locations. 

Unfortunately, due to population increase, urbanisation, globalisation, and a lack of public health infrastructure, many Vector-borne Diseases have become more critical and have reemerged over the past forty years.

Signs and symptoms of Vector-borne Diseases

Here’s a table highlighting the basic signs and symptoms of Vector-borne Diseases.

Early signs Advanced signs
Headache, Fever, Skin rash, Chills, Sore muscles, Stomach pain, Nausea Chest pain, Difficulty in breathing, Vomiting, Swelling in the throat, face, lips, tongue, Palpitation, Dizziness

Types of Vector-borne Diseases

The following table lists the type of vectors and the diseases they can cause.

Vector Disease Pathogen
Mosquito Malaria Parasite
Mosquito Dengue, Chikungunya, Yellow Fever Virus
Fleas Plague Bacteria
Ticks Relapsing fever, Tularaemia Bacteria
Lice Louse-borne relapsing fever, Typhus Bacteria

Common Vector-borne Diseases in India

Different countries are affected differently by Vector-borne Diseases depending on the location’s climate and population. There are essentially 5 Vector-borne Diseases that are common in India.

  • Malaria

Malaria is still essentially an epidemic in the country. When a female anopheles mosquito bites a person, it transmits the Plasmodium parasite, leading to Malaria. 

According to WHO, There were 96 malaria deaths and 429,928 cases in India in 2018. Even though India plans to be malaria-free by 2030, South-East Asia now receives over 87% of its malaria cases from this country. However, Malaria is treatable with appropriate medical care.

  • Dengue

In India, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that feed during the day carry the prevalent Vector-borne Disease, Dengue Fever. Thousands of people suffer each year, particularly during the monsoon season. 

The symptoms of dengue fever are similar to those of the flu, just like those of most vector-borne viruses. Extreme blood loss and dehydration can also happen in Dengue Fever. There is currently no vaccine or direct therapy for Dengue Fever, although medical and traditional remedies can relieve symptoms and help people recover.

  • Zika Disease

After Indian health authorities launched many testing programmes in response to India's first occurrence of the Zika disease in 2018, they discovered that 157 persons had tested positive for the infection. 

Unexpectedly, the mosquito that transmits the Dengue, Chikungunya, and Yellow Fever viruses also transmit the Zika virus. Although it is rarely life-threatening, if a pregnant woman contracts the disease, experts believe it causes severe birth abnormalities in the baby. However, India currently has low cases of the Zika virus.

  • Japanese Encephalitis

This Vector-borne Disease is less known but relatively frequent in India, particularly among children aged three to six. Both humans and animals are affected by Japanese Encephalitis, transmitted by mosquitoes, pigs, and waterfowl (a type of duck).

In 2019-20, in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, more than 150 newborns and children lost their lives from this viral infection due to eating contaminated litchis. Less than 1% of infected people experience clinical symptoms before the brain becomes inflamed and changes how it functions. However, you can avoid the disease with vaccination.

Diagnosis of a Vector-borne Disease

It is necessary to identify the disease because the symptoms are often vague. A doctor may suggest a serology test if you have experienced the symptoms for more than a week. Since there is no particular cure for a Vector-borne Disease, getting medical attention immediately lowers the risk. Some patients who have low platelet counts may require a blood transfusion.

How can I prevent getting a Vector-borne Disease?

The following tips can help in preventing a Vector-borne Disease.

  1. To avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes, sandflies, or ticks, cover yourself with light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts and long pants that are tucked into socks or boots. The probability of being bitten depends on the temperature, humidity, and time of day, so be aware when you require additional protective gear and bug repellent.

  2. Get vaccinated against diseases that are common where you're going before you travel. Vaccines are available for Japanese Encephalitis, Tick-borne Encephalitis, and Yellow Fever.

  3. Regularly examine your body for ticks. Apply a skin disinfectant after removing the tick with tweezers if you discover one. Also, properly inspect your clothing, baggage, and other possessions.

  4. If window screens are available, use them to keep insects away from your lodging.

  5. If at all feasible, speak with your doctor 4 to 6 weeks before travelling to discuss ways to protect yourself (such as what antimalarial medications to take if Malaria is prevalent where you're going).

  6. If you are staying in a Malaria-risk area, sleep underneath an insecticide-treated bed net and ask for one if necessary.

  7. Avoid coming into contact with blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids or infected people or animals.

  8. Inform your physician where you've been if you get sick after returning home because you might have brought sickness with you.

  9. In places where Tick-borne Encephalitis could spread, maintain strong food hygiene controls and steer clear of raw milk.

  10. Try to complete your treatment at home if you are bit and obtain medical attention overseas.

Vector-borne Disease risk factors

One of the risk factors affecting the transmission of Vector-borne Disease is the weather. Additionally, factors that affect the distribution of vector populations and the diseases they might transmit include.

  • Geography of the area

  • Socioeconomic and cultural aspects

  • Pest control

  • Access to healthcare

  • Individual responses to disease risk

Climate changes on a daily, seasonal, or annual basis may cause the vector/pathogen to evolve. The chances of transmission also depend upon the host's health, the number of bites, and the pathogens' resistance to treatment.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some common questions and answers about Vector-borne Diseases.

What is the difference between a vector and germs?


Germs are the microorganisms that cause infections, while vectors carry the pathogens that spread a disease after they bite a human being.

What is the treatment for curing a Vector-borne Disease?


Different Vector-borne Diseases need a different treatment approach based on the case's type and severity. Since fever is the most common symptom, your physician may prescribe medicine to treat it first.

What is the difference between a vector and a carrier?


Carrier is an organism (including humans) that suffers from a disease but may not show symptoms. It is capable of transmitting the infection to others. A vector is an organism capable of transmitting disease from an infected individual to a new individual. A vector does not necessarily suffer from the disease they carry.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.



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