Disease Vectors

Published on Aug 26, 2003 07:57 PM IST

Vector-borne diseases are a threat to children's health. Some, however, pose a specific threat.

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In principle, all vector-borne diseases are a serious threat to children's health. Some, however, pose a specific threat to children, because a child’s immune system is unable to cope with the assault by the infectious agent, or because the way a child behaves may increase vulnerability to disease. These diseases include:

Malaria, which is transmitted by the mosquito, overwhelmingly kills children. Ninety percent of the burden of malaria is concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, with over a million deaths a year, mainly of children under five.

Lymphatic Filariasis, an infection of parasitic worms lodging in the lymphatic system can cause the deformations typical of the disease (“lymphedema” and “hydrocoele”) in children as young as age 12. The decrease in healthy life caused by this disease is second only in its magnitude to malaria.

Schistosomiasis, a water-based disease caused by bloodflukes (worms that live in the bloodstream), affects children and adolescents. Chronic infection leads to debilitation and degenerative disease. Two hundred million people are infected around the world.

Japanese encephalitis is found in the irrigated rice production systems of South and South-East Asia. Outbreaks particularly affect children under five (about 90% of cases); an average of 40,000 clinical cases are estimated to occur each year, with a mortality rate of 20%. Of the survivors, 50% will be affected mentally for life.

Leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease transmitted by sandflies, manifests itself either in skin lesions or in damage to internal organs - the latter form is life threatening with an estimated 59,000 deaths in 2001. Every year an estimated 2 million cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis occur, and an estimated 95% of patients are children under 5 years old.

Dengue fever also affects young children disproportionately in high burden countries. The disease’s most lethal form, dengue haemorrhagic fever, kills, on average, over 10,000 children each year. During major outbreaks, children’s hospitals can come to a grinding halt as wards are overwhelmed by admissions.

(Source: Webhealthcentre.com)

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