Public Awareness:  Vector Control

Vector control is an important component of many disease control programmes.  It is a cornerstone of very effective campaigns to control vector-borne diseases. For a number of diseases where there is no effective treatment or cure, such as West Nile Virus and Dengue Fever (not endemic to the Garden Route), vector control remains the only way to protect populations.

Vector control is any method to limit or eradicate the mammals, birds, insects or other blood-feeding arthropods, collectively called vectors, which transmit disease pathogens. Mosquitoes are the best-known invertebrate vector and it transmits a wide range of tropical diseases, including Malaria, Dengue and Yellow fever. Another large group of vectors is flies.

However, even for vector-borne diseases with effective applications, the high cost of treatment remains a huge barrier to a large number of developing countries. Vector-borne diseases are transmitted by the bite of infected arthropod species, such as mosquitoes, ticks, bugs and sand flies. Despite being treatable, malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitos in Africa, has by far the greatest impact on human health. A child in Africa dies of malaria every minute, although vector control measures that have been in effect since 2000, reduced fatalities with 50%.

As the impact of diseases and viruses are devastating, the need to control the vectors in which the disease or viruses are carried, continues to be prioritised. Vector control in many developing countries can have tremendous effects on mortality rates, especially among infants. The high movement of populations causes  diseases to spread rapidly – the Garden Route District cannot be excluded from this migration trend.

Control measures:

  1. Remove or reduce areas where vectors can easily breed. This will limit their growth, for example, the removal of stagnant water, riddance of old tyres and cans that serves as mosquito breeding environments.
  2. Limit exposure to insects or animals that are known disease vectors can reduce infection risks significantly, for example, window screens or protective clothes can help reduce the likelihood of contact with vectors.
  3. Chemical control by using insecticides, rodenticides or repellents to control vectors.
  4. Biological control, the use of natural vector predators such as bacterial toxins or botanical compounds can help control vector populations, for example, using of fish that eat the mosquito larvae.

Prevent vectors by wearing light coloured, long sleeved shirts and long pants, tucked into socks or boots. Use repellent on exposed skin and clothing, to protect yourself from being bitten by mosquitos, sand flies or ticks. Simple hygiene measures can reduce or prevent the spread of many diseases.

Avoid vector-borne diseases:

  1. Before travelling, vaccinate against diseases prevalent at your destination for example, Yellow fever. Antimalarial medicines is also available.
  2. Use window screens to control mosquitoes.
  3. Sleep under an insecticide-treated bed net, if in a place or area with a malaria risk.
  4. Check your body regularly for ticks. If you find one, remove it with a tweezers and apply a skin disinfectant. In a tick- infested area, check your clothing, luggage and other belongings.
  5. Avoid contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people or animals.
  6. Make sure to keep strict hygiene control of food and avoid unpasteurised dairy products in areas where tick-borne diseases are prevalent.
  7. If bitten and did receive treatment abroad, please remember to complete your treatment course at home.
  8. If you become ill upon your return, tell your doctor where you have been, as you may have brought a disease back with you.
  9. Child care facilities should treat their sandpits with salt on a regular basis to prevent vectors.