Insect-borne viruses like Zika and Dengue could be the cause of the next pandemic, WHO warns 

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Insect-borne viruses like Zika and Dengue could be the cause of the next pandemic, world health chiefs warn

  • Viruses transmitted by insects could be next global pandemic WHO believes
  • Pathogens like Zika virus are spread by arthropods like mosquitoes and ticks
  • Nearly four billion people live in tropical and sub-tropical areas where they thrive

Insect-borne pathogens pose an ‘increasing’ risk and could lead to the next pandemic according to the World Health Organization.

Arboviruses like Zika, yellow fever, Chikungunya and dengue are a group of pathogens which are spread by arthropods such as mosquitoes and ticks.

They top the list for the next potential outbreak that could escalate into a pandemic, especially as almost four billion people live in tropical and sub-tropical areas where they thrive.

Experts are looking to put strategies in place to prevent a repeat of Covid-19.

The World Health Organisation believe that insect-borne pathogens including could spark the next pandemic, as they launched their new Global Arbovirus Initiative (file photo)

The World Health Organisation believe that insect-borne pathogens including could spark the next pandemic, as they launched their new Global Arbovirus Initiative (file photo) 

There have been dozens of Zika virus outbreaks since 2016, it is an infection spread mainly by mosquitoes and can be harmful to pregnant women. (pictured: mosquito inspector spraying homes after an outbreak)

There have been dozens of Zika virus outbreaks since 2016, it is an infection spread mainly by mosquitoes and can be harmful to pregnant women. (pictured: mosquito inspector spraying homes after an outbreak)

‘We have been through two years of Covid-19 pandemic and we have learned the hard way what [it costs] not to be enough prepared for high impact events,’ Dr Sylvie Briand, director of the Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness team at the WHO, said at a briefing on Thursday.

‘We had [a] signal with Sars in 2003 and the experience of the influenza 2009 pandemic – but there were still gaps in our preparedness.

‘The next pandemic could, very likely, be due to a new arbovirus. And we also have some signals that the risk is increasing.’

 She was speaking at the launch of the WHO’s new Global Arbovirus Initiative, which aims to bring together work to tackle insect-borne threats under one roof.

The WHO warned that there are signs that Arboviruses and the risks they pose are 'increasing' (file photo)

The WHO warned that there are signs that Arboviruses and the risks they pose are ‘increasing’ (file photo) 

Arboviruses are increasing in prevalence and currently present a public health threat in tropical and sub-tropical areas.

Since 2016 more than 89 countries have faced Zika outbreaks, while yellow fever risk has ‘been on the rise since the early 2000’s’.

Every year, dengue fever infects 390 million people in the 130 countries where it is endemic – it can cause haemorrhagic fever and death.

Yellow fever poses a high risk of outbreaks in 40 countries and causes jaundice and severe haemorrhagic fever and death.

Chikungunya is less well-known, but it is present in 115 countries and cause severe and joint-disabling arthritis. 

Although there is a vaccine for Yellow fever, for the rest, the best protection is to prevent mosquito bites in the first place, WHO believes.

Arbovirus is an informal name for any virus that is transmitted by arthropod vectors, like ticks (pictured)

Arbovirus is an informal name for any virus that is transmitted by arthropod vectors, like ticks (pictured) 

The focus of the Global Arbovirus Initiative will be to concentrate resources on risk monitoring, pandemic prevention, preparedness, detection and response, the UN health agency said.

It insisted that international action is essential, given the ‘frequency and magnitude of outbreaks’ of arboviruses, particularly those that are transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.

Dr Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s Emergency Programme, said: ‘For each of these diseases there have been gains in different aspects of surveillance response, research and development.

‘But sustainability is often limited to the scope and duration and scope of disease-specific projects.

‘There is an urgent need to re-evaluate the tools at hand and how these can be used across diseases to ensure efficient response, evidence-based practice, equipped and trained personnel and engagement of communities.’

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