A vector is a disease-carrying agent and vector-borne diseases are a major cause of sickness and death in many disaster situations. Mosquitoes are the vector responsible for malaria transmission, which is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality. Mosquitoes also transmit other diseases, such as yellow fever, dengue and haemorrhagic fever. Non-biting or synanthropic flies, such as the house fly, the blow fly and the flesh fly, play an important role in the transmission of diarrhoeal disease. Biting flies, bedbugs and fleas are a painful nuisance and in some cases transmit significant diseases such as murine typhus, scabies and plague. Ticks transmit relapsing fever, while human body lice transmit typhus and relapsing fever. Rats and mice can transmit diseases, such as leptospirosis and salmonellosis, and can be hosts for other vectors, e.g. fleas, which may transmit Lassa fever, plague and other infections.
Vector-borne diseases can be controlled through a variety of initiatives, including appropriate site selection and provision of shelter, water supply, excreta disposal, solid waste management and drainage, provision of health services (including community mobilisation and health promotion), use of chemical controls, family and individual protection, and effective protection of food stores. The nature of vector-borne disease is often complex and addressing vector-related problems may demand specialist attention. However, there is often much that can be done to help prevent the spread of such diseases with simple and effective measures, once the disease, its vector and their interaction with the population have been identified.