zoonotic diseases

The importance of vector and pest control in disasters and emergencies

Background: The Pacific Islands have environmental conditions highly favourable for transmission of leptospirosis, a neglected zoonosis with highest incidence in the tropics, and Oceania in particular.

Invasive alien plants and animals are known for their disruption of ecosystems and threat to biodiversity. This book highlights their major impact on human health. This includes not only direct effects through contact with the species via bites, wounds and disease, but also indirect effects caused by changes induced in ecosystems by invasive species, such as more water hyacinth increasing mosquito levels and thereby the potential for malaria.

The WHO Guide to sanitation in natural disasters (Assar, 1971) summarized the essential aspects of environmental health management in disasters. These included the provision of emergency water and sanitation services; the burial or cremation of the dead; vector and pest control; food hygiene; and the assessment of the danger of epidemics following emergencies and disasters, etc. Thirty years later these aspects remain essential, though the needs, challenges and opportunities are greater.

BBC website news article - Flood hit South Indian state of Kerala 11 people died of leptospirosis; After floods expect to see water-borne diseases like cholera, typhoid, diarrhoea, hepatitis and rat fever

The eradication of some introduced pests such as rats, stoats and possums in New Zealand seems increasingly feasible with successful action to date in various cities (e.g. Wellington City) and with the government’s national 2050 predator-free goal. Here we specifically detail the potential benefits of urban rat eradication and find these cover a wide range of topics including a potentially reduced risk of infection from at least seven zoonotic diseases (e.g. leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis, trichinellosis, murine typhus; and three enteric diseases).

Many neglected tropical zoonotic pathogens are maintained by introduced mammals, and on islands the most common introduced species are rodents, cats, and dogs. Management of introduced mammals, including control or eradication of feral populations, which is frequently done for ecological restoration, could also reduce or eliminate the pathogens these animals carry. Understanding the burden of these zoonotic diseases is crucial for quantifying the potential public health benefits of introduced mammal management.