August 20 is World Mosquito Day
World Mosquito Day, a perfect time to take stock of mankind’s ongoing battle against mosquito – one of our most deadly foes.
Mosquitoes spread diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile virus, chikungunya, and yellow fever. Malaria alone kills around 600 million people every year, most of whom are African children.
With climate change, these diseases are traveling to more areas and affecting more people than ever. Dengue fever, for example, will affect around 390 million people this year, mostly in the least developed countries on earth.
What is World Mosquito Day?
In 1897, a British doctor named Sir Ronald Ross made a discovery which ultimately led to smarter ways to prevent dengue fever – even if that wasn’t his primary intention at the time.
It was Ross who found that female mosquitoes (of the Anopheles genus) were to blame for transmitting the malarial parasite. And he won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1902.
Since then, his discovery has been celebrated on August 20 every year – World Mosquito Day.
But this year, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic that the tide may be turning our way. The new vaccine should help turn things for the better and it will be one more tool that will help with the management of mosquito-borne diseases.
Last month, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the first ever malaria vaccine. While the vaccine is not effective in all cases, it is a major breakthrough. Malaria kills 1,200 children per day. Even if the new jab only protects a fraction of those at risk, the potential for saving lives is enormous.
As recently as a decade ago, leading scientists believed that malaria vaccines would remain elusive. Now, a game-changing vaccine has the green light from regulators and researchers continue to work on other malaria vaccines too.
So what about dengue fever? Well, the first dengue vaccine is on the way. A new paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) shows lower rates of dengue-related hospitalization among children.
Experts say there are still a few more hurdles for the vaccine to clear before it is recommended for use but it is looking likely that by next World Mosquito Day there will be a dengue vaccine. But we mustn’t forget that a coordinated and integrated approach to addressing these diseases is necessary. After all, mosquitoes don’t stop at borders.
Read what the WHO has to say about dengue vaccine development.