Arboviral diseases are viruses that are transmitted via the bite of an infected insect - usually mosquitoes and ticks. The most well known include dengue, Zika, chikungunya, yellow fever, West Nile virus and Japanese encephalitis.
Over recent decades, the increasing number of arboviral disease epidemics has raised awareness of their capacity to affect many more people in an urbanised and globalised world. Zika for example, rapidly became a global health threat. There has also been such a huge increase in dengue virus infections that is now considered the most common vector-borne viral infection with an estimated 390 million infections worldwide every year.
The threat posed by these diseases when they become epidemics, as well as that of emerging arboviruses, emphasises the need for a serious focus on their management and control. The transmission patterns of dengue, for example, are complex and driven by climate, herd immunity, a superbly adapted mosquito and modern patterns of human movement. This is particularly important given that the main vector, Aedes aegypti, has a preference for the urban environment and proximity to humans.
Several factors contribute to the success of Aedes aegypti: its exclusive and frequent feeding on humans, tendency to behaviour change, cryptic breeding (i.e. it can breed in the least obvious, most unusual places), rapid development, desiccation-resistant eggs, and growing resistance to some of the principle insecticides currently available on the market.
According to a review of the emerging global health threat posed by arboviral diseases (The Lancet December 2016), it is their common features that should stimulate research into appropriate diagnostics, vaccines, environmental determinants and vector control measures. Global alliances, regional and local partnerships and adoption of integrated vector management as a rational decision-making process for the optimal use of resources for vector control are essential if we are to develop more effective and timely solutions.
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