World Health Day Call to Action

Call to Action print version (PDF)

"Step up the fight against vector-borne diseases in the Americas"

Vector-borne diseases—diseases carried by insects, ticks, and small animals—are a serious and shifting public health threat in the Americas. They include long-established diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, Chagas disease, and dengue as well as newer imports such as West Nile virus, which arrived in North America in 1999, and chikungunya, first reported in the Caribbean in December 2013. An estimated 545 million people in the Americas are at risk of dengue, and some 145 million are at risk of malaria, with millions more at risk of other vector-borne diseases. The risk and range of these diseases could grow as globalization, increased travel and shipping, climate change, and urban sprawl expand the range of some vectors beyond their traditional areas.

In the Americas, deaths from vector-borne diseases have declined dramatically in recent decades. However, they continue to cause misery and hardship as a result of illness and disabilities that can include heart failure, paralysis, blindness, and disfigurement. Major outbreaks—as with dengue fever and chikungunya—can overburden hospitals and local health services. Although the impact of these diseases is greatest on low-income countries and people, no one is immune. All of us—rich and poor, from North and South—are at risk when these diseases are not controlled.

The countries of the Americas have a long tradition of working together to fight shared public health threats, and today we have the tools and knowledge needed to tackle these diseases. Publicly funded programs to control mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects have proven key to reducing their impact. Large-scale drug treatment of communities in combination with vector control can even eliminate some of these diseases. Investing in these prevention and control programs is an urgent priority.

The successes achieved so far are today being threatened by the expansion of mosquitoes and other vectors into new habitats and by the emergence of insecticide and drug resistance. To protect our achievements and ensure further progress, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and its partners are calling for stepped-up action in the fight against vector-borne diseases in the Americas. Everyone has a role to play. We urge…

Governments to

  • Ensure political commitment and public funding for vector-control programs based on an integrated approach.
  • Invest in water and sanitation, waste collection, and urban drainage, especially in areas that are currently underserved.
  • Share proven strategies and lessons learned through country-to-country cooperation initiatives.

Health authorities to

  • Improve surveillance and monitoring of vector-borne diseases.
  • Integrate prevention and control of vector-borne diseases with programs to control other diseases.
  • Strengthen monitoring of insecticide and drug resistance, and ensure an effective response.
  • Collaborate with other government agencies and sectors, especially the environment, tourism, and education, to strengthen action for prevention and control of vector-borne diseases.
  • Work with local authorities to implement vector-control and elimination measures, including safe water supply, sanitation and drainage, control of breeding sites, healthy housing, and garbage collection.

Individuals and families to

  • Clean up around their homes and offices to eliminate vegetation, rubbish, and standing water that can serve as breeding sites for mosquitoes and other vectors.
  • Protect oneself by wearing long-sleeved clothing, applying insect repellent, and using window screens or bed nets as appropriate.
  • Work with governments to improve social and environmental conditions, especially sanitation, waste management, and protection of water sources.

International partners and donors to

  • Support the strengthening and sustainability of programs for control and elimination of vector-borne diseases.
  • Where needed, provide donations or subsidies of medicines for the control of vector-borne diseases.
  • Provide incentives for research and development of new, safer, and more environmentally adapted insecticides; next-generation vector-control tools; and innovative medicines and diagnostics.