World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization in 1948. Each year a theme is selected that highlights a priority area of public health. In past years themes as diverse as road safety, climate change and high blood pressure have been chosen. The topic for 2014 is vector-borne diseases, which could be of great personal relevance to a large number of students who make international journeys whilst they are studying at the University of Bristol.
Vectors are organisms that transmit pathogens and parasites from one infected person (or animal) to another. Vector-borne diseases are illnesses caused by these pathogens and parasites. Vector-borne diseases account for a massive 17% of the estimated global burden of all infectious diseases.
The most well known and deadly vector-borne disease is of course Malaria but the world’s fastest growing vector-borne disease is Dengue with a 30-fold increase in disease incidence over the last 50 years. Others you may have heard of are Yellow Fever and Schistosomiasis. Vector borne diseases are most commonly found in tropical areas and places where access to safe drinking-water and sanitation systems is problematic. However, globalization of trade and travel and environmental challenges such as climate change and urbanization are having an impact on transmission of vector-borne diseases, and causing their appearance in countries where they were previously unknown.
So World Health Day 2014 has a particular relevance for people on the move, which includes many UoB students. Large numbers of you will travel to countries where vector borne diseases pose a threat. This includes some of our International Students who return home during the course of their degree. Many of the risks of global travel can be minimized by precautions taken before, during and after travel. Whether you are a student planning an exciting trip during one of the university holidays, or whether you are an International Student intending on going home during your degree, it is important that travellers to developing countries consult a travel medicine clinic well in advance of the intended journey. We run travel clinics at Students’ Health service, which are open to our International Students too.