The Buzz About Mosquitoes

With warmer weather or climates come pesky bugs, including the infamous mosquito. Mosquito bites can be much more serious than just an itchy nuisance. In most areas of the world, mosquitoes carry diseases that can be transferred to humans, and sometimes the result is deadly.

Mosquito-borne diseases are a type of vector-borne disease. Vectors are living organisms that can transmit infectious diseases to humans. Some of the most well-known mosquito-borne diseases are malaria and the Zika virus. But there are also many others, including: West Nile virus, Chikungunya virus, Dengue virus, and yellow fever. Not only are these diseases life-threatening, but they also affect economies and contribute to an increase of poverty.

Generally, the least developed countries are the most affected by mosquito borne diseases. Fifteen of 91 countries that reported indigenous malaria cases in 2016 carried 80% of the global malaria burden. All of these countries, except for India, are in sub-Saharan Africa. There was an estimated 445,000 deaths from malaria globally in 2016. About 91% of those malaria deaths were in Africa followed by 6% in South-East Asia.

Although much of the attention with mosquito borne-diseases relate to the health impacts; there is also an impact to the economy. Sickness prevents people from working and supporting their families, which causes further hardship and interferes with economic development.

For instance, Dengue imposes substantial economic burdens through medical costs and working days lost due to illness. According to a global brief on vector-borne diseases by World Health Organization (WHO), an average Dengue episode lasts about 19 days for non-fatal hospitalized patients and costs around $1,491. For families in impoverished regions who struggle to meet their family’s daily needs, this type of medical expense is unbearable.

Because of the impacts mosquito borne-diseases have both in regards to health and the economy, prevention is crucial. There are vector control initiatives, including Insecticide-Treated Nets (ITN) and Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS), and preventative therapies such as Intermittent Preventive Treatment in Pregnancy (IPTP) with an antimalarial drug.

Of these, one of the simplest and cost-effective methods is ITN. ITNs are nets that people sleep under to keep mosquitoes and other vectors away. Ownership of at least one ITN increased across sub-Saharan Africa from 50% in 2010 to 80% in 2016, and Global Hope Network International (GHNI) is helping to improve this statistic even further. As part of GHNI’s Transformational Community Development (TCD), our field staff teach villages the importance of overcoming mosquito borne-diseases and using ITNs as a prevention method.

After one of these lessons in a village in Kenya, a group of women were challenged to pool their resources together. By doing so, each woman was able to buy a mosquito net for her family. In the case of one of these women, someone in her family used to suffer from malaria about every three weeks, losing most of their income to medication. But after three months sleeping under a mosquito net, no one in her family has fallen ill with malaria. What a simple step to prevent such a detrimental impact to health and economies!

 

— Kelsey Schupp
GHNI Guest Writer