Vector-Borne Diseases: The Long Standing, Perennial Threats of Assam
Alongside the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic, the state of Assam also seems to combat other major problems like floods, landslides, and erosion. To make matters worse, the Japanese Encephalitis (JE) season has arrived putting the healthcare infrastructure of the state under severe pressure.
Among some common vector-borne diseases apart from the Japanese Encephalitis disease is Chikungunya, Dengue, Rift Valley fever, Yellow fever, Zika Virus, and West Nile fever which are all viral diseases whereas Lymphatic filariasis and Malaria are parasitic infections.
These diseases are spread mostly by three types of mosquitoes which are the Aedes mosquitoes, Anopheles mosquitoes, and Culex mosquitoes. The Lymphatic Filariasis is one disease that is spread by Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex mosquitoes.
Some common vector-borne diseases in Assam:
Japanese Encephalitis is a viral disease that affects the Central Nervous system and is transmitted by infective bites of female Culex mosquitoes. Symptoms of Japanese Encephalitis include headache, fever, meningeal signs, disorientation, coma, tremors, paralysis, hypertonia, loss of coordination, etc.
Mosquitoes infected by the virus spread this zoonotic disease to humans. Mosquitoes that spread this disease usually bite during dawn and dusk and human beings are accidental hosts and dead-end of the chain.
Japanese Encephalitis has a 14% mortality rate which is 60 times higher than COVID-19 and its natural hosts are water birds like herons and egrets. These birds transmit the disease to pigs who amplify the virus and pigs maintain prolonged viraemia (presence of a virus in the blood). There is no specific cure; intensive supportive therapy is indicated for this disease.
This viral disease is a perennial problem in the northeast along with annual floods. 30,000 to 50,000 cases of JE are reported each year from Asia. This disease cannot be transmitted from one person to another meaning it is not contagious.
The Chikungunya disease is a non-fatal viral illness caused by the Chikungunya Virus from the family Togaviridae, genus Alphavirus. It is spread by mosquito bites which start with high fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, and rashes.
The first case of Chikungunya was reported in Assam in 2008 and subsequently affected Meghalaya. The presence of potential vectors in the region poses northeasterners a serious threat from disease.
Dengue fever is another deadly disease that is spread by Aedes mosquitoes. Its symptoms include high fever, headache, rash and muscle, and joint pain. In severe cases, there can lead to serious bleeding. Aedes mosquitoes breed in clean stagnant water collected in and around the house.
Dengue vectors usually rest in corners, under furniture, dark clothing, etc. These mosquitoes bite between 8 to 10 am and 3 to 5 pm. Human beings are their most preferred hosts.
Malaria is another potentially life-threatening parasitic disease caused by parasites known as Plasmodium. This disease is transmitted by the infective bite of Anopheles mosquito and its symptoms include recurrent fever with chills and headache.
15 million cases of malaria with 19,500–20,000 deaths are reported annually in India, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report. India contributes 77% of the total malaria cases in Southeast Asia.
Two types of parasites Plasmodium Vivax and P Falciparum are what cause the disease in India. Malaria is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions and prevalent during and after the rainy season due to mosquito breeding.
In order to prevent vector-borne diseases and respond to any outbreaks promptly, it is essential that vector control programmes are re-aligned with supported technical capacity, improved infrastructure, strengthened monitoring, and greater community mobilization in Assam and across the Northeast region.
Another crucial element that reduces the burden of vector-borne diseases is behavioral change. Public awareness vital so people learn how to protect themselves and their communities from mosquitoes, ticks, bugs, flies, or other vectors by ensuring that they keep their surroundings clean and hygienic.
- Vector Borne diseases
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Rift Valley fever
- Yellow fever
- Zika Virus
- West Nile fever