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World Health Day 2014

This year, the focus is on vector-borne diseases - that is, any disease transmitted by an agent, such as a mosquito. More than half the world's population is at risk from diseases like Lyme disease, malaria and yellow fever, all of which are carried by flying insects and water bugs.

Vector-borne diseases tend to affect mainly the poorest of the world's populations, mainly due to a lack of clean water or adequate shelter. In addition, the weak and hungry are more susceptible to disease, producing further threat to those without access to basic care. The most widespread is schistosomiasis, a disease carried by water snails and of particular danger to young children, who often play near water sources.

Environmental changes and the increasing travel and trade industries have meant that these diseases are spreading further across the world - reports from Greece indicate the malaria has returned to the country, while mosquito-borne dengue fever has been reported from China to the US and even Portugal.

The incredible thing about the scope of this risk is how inexpensive it is to protect communities from vectors. Insecticide nets to keep beds covered have saved the lives of millions - and World Health Day's aim is to ensure we continue to find new and cheap ways to keep people in every country safe.

How can I help?

This year the tagline for World Health Day is "Small bite, big threat" - and those on Twitter were encouraged to share their own stories using the hashtag #Just1bite. The best thing you can do as an individual is help spread awareness - so share prevention tips with your friends and make sure you think about your vaccinations and preparations ahead of your summer holidays!


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