YOU are sleeping quite soundly when a sharp buzzing sound around your head wakes you up, forcing you to try to swat it away.
Or else you are walking in the park and only realise you were bitten when rashes appear on your arms and legs.
More worrisome is when the infant in your family develops red spots on the otherwise smooth skin on the face.
The mosquito is a nuisance which Malaysians have to live with. But its association with so many serious diseases has made the world take the mosquito very seriously.
The latest headline-catching ailment is the zika virus. In Malaysia, dengue fever and malaria are still more worrisome.
And other mosquito-related diseases include yellow fever, filariasis, Chikungunya and West Nile fever. No wonder the mosquito has even been called the world’s most deadly species.
The interest in the zika virus is still new, after reports since 2015 that it causes birth defects, and there is urgency in finding a vaccine.
Dengue fever cases have risen at an alarming rate but there is, until now, neither a cure nor an approved vaccine. There are drugs to treat malaria, but increasing resistance to the parasite to them.
Since last year, the zika virus is reported to have been locally transmitted in 31 Latin American and Caribbean countries, and the World Health Organisation warns that it is likely to be transmitted in other countries (like Malaysia) where there areAedes aegypti mosquitoes.
The main concern is the zika virus’ apparent association with neurological disorders, especially microcephaly (a birth defect where the baby’s head is smaller than normal). Eight countries have also reported increased incidence of Guillain-Barré syndrome (affecting people of all ages) linked to zika.
On March 8, the WHO’s Zika Emergency Committee concluded that “there is increasing evidence that there is a causal relationship between microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders with the zika virus”.
The committee recommended more research on the links between the zika virus and neurological disorders, vector control measures, public education on the risks, and priority to develop new diagnostics, new drugs and vaccines.
Regarding malaria, global action has yielded good results. Between 2000 and 2015, among populations at risk, the malaria incidence fell by 37% and death rates by 60% globally.
Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites (the most deadly being P. falciparum) which are spread by Anopheles mosquitoes. According to WHO, in 2015, there were 214 million malaria cases and 438,000 deaths.
The best treatment is artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). But the P. falciparum parasite is becoming resistant to artemisinin and the partner drugs, just as earlier it had become resistant to chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine.
by MARTIN KHOR.
Read more @ http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/global-trends/2016/03/14/zika-dengue-malaria-and-the-deadly-mosquito/