Today is the 118th World Mosquito Day, marked annually since doctor Sir Ronald Ross first identified female Anopheles mosquitoes as the vector that transmits malaria between humans.
In 2015, World Mosquito Day represents a time to highlight the enormous danger posed by the unassuming insect: 725 000 people die every year from mosquito-borne diseases; considerably more than those killed by lions, crocodiles or sharks.
An unimaginably large 198 million cases and 584 000 deaths from malaria were reported in 2013 with similarly outsize trends from such a small agent seen across its disease spectrum. Mosquitoes also transmit chikungunya (an incurable viral disease, causing fever and debilitating joint pain), dengue, yellow fever (from which half of all severely affected sufferers will die without treatment) and West Nile Virus.
In recent years, vector-borne disease management and prevention directives have prioritised use of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNS) and indoor residual spraying (IRS). Their combined use can reduce the risk of such disease transmission by up to 50%.
As a result of this focus, progress has been made. In the past three years, 90 countries, nearly half of which are in the African region, have implemented policies for malaria control. IRS acts as an offensive shield as it coats the inside walls of dwellings to kill mosquitoes, working most effectively when applied to 80% of households in a community. A similar trend is witnessed through the use of ITNS: increased access to nets can help reduce malaria mortality significantly.
To defeat malaria and wage war on one of the biggest global health threats today, this generation must act to prevent transmission. In a world which has seen more casualties from mosquitoes than from wars, continued weighty and sustainable investments must be made. Innovative efforts to find new solutions to tackle mosquitoes is a buzz-worthy cause we must all be a part of.
Image Credit: Chris Clogg, Flickr