Vector-Borne Diseases | Overview, Quick Facts & Resources

Diseases transmitted by ticks and insects – or ‘vector borne’ diseases – are a growing threat to people all over the world

It’s thought that these diseases cause more than a million deaths across the globe every year, with malaria alone accounting for 400,000 of these (most of them children). 

The nature of diseases carried by mosquitoes or ticks in particular makes them incredibly difficult to control. What’s more, the distribution of these diseases is decided by a complex mix of social and environmental factors. 

Diseases transmitted by ticks and insects are likely to hit people in the developing world hardest. A combination of the warmer climates in which insects thrive and lack of access to care and medicine means poorer communities feel the impact of this kind of disease most intensely. 

Just one example is African sleeping sickness; the Tsetse flies that transmit the disease are found in 36 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, placing 60 million people at risk. Cattle and wild animals are often carriers of the disease, which can then be spread to people through fly bites. 

Animal medicines can control the parasite that causes sleeping sickness before transmission takes place. It’s an important part of a prevention strategy, which also includes insecticides, bed nets, and more.

As with all disease, prevention is better than cure, and the animal medicines sector is creating tools to prevent transmission of disease by ticks and insects – like the repellent collars you may have given your pet. 

Animal health companies are also developing vaccines for zoonotic diseases and working towards reducing the ‘reservoir of vectors’ by creating products that kill the ticks and insects responsible for transmitting these diseases. 

Quick Facts

  • Climate change increases risk: Climate change is increasing the risk of diseases transmitted by ticks and insects. Increases in temperature and humidity can improve survival and reduce the generation times of a number of the agents that carry disease. This can worsen outbreaks and make it even more difficult for farmers, especially in developing countries, to provide for their family and community.
  • Vector-borne diseases are expanding:  Diseases such as Bluetongue, West Nile and Schmallenberg virus have expanded into northern Europe, Australia, South America and Africa now that the midge species that transmit these viruses are able to survive winter at higher latitudes.