Integrated management of arthropods of public health importance

helicopter rice fieldsSince there is no vaccine against vector – borne diseases all measures aiming to prevent physical contact with arthropods of public health importance constitute the only way of prevention.

Personal protection measures (insect repellents, bednets, window nets, etc.) are not always sufficient. Therefore, drastic and effective measures should be implemented by the state. The lack of understanding of the integrated management of those arthropods makes the implemented measures ineffective and often leads to overspending.

What sort of organisms are the arthropods?

The arthropods are small invertebrates. Instead of internal skeleton arthropods have the so – called exoskeleton made of a hard, rigid material called chitin. The majority of arthropods are not harmful to humans. However, some species of public health importance can cause nuisance and transmit diseases. These arthropods can be divided into four main categories:

  • Arthropods causing nuisance, discomfort or any other problem due to their bites (e.g. mosquitoes, bedbugs, fleas, midges, etc.)
  •  Ectoparasitic arthropods living and feeding on their hosts without transmitting microorganisms (e.g. lice, mites, etc.)
  • Arthropods that are passive carriers of diseases (e.g. flies, cockroaches carrying pathogens from excrement to human food, etc.)
  • Arthropod vectors of diseases. Pathogens grow and multiply in the vector’s body and are transmitted to humans through the bite (e.g. mosquitoes, lice, fleas, etc.)


Arthropod pests of public health importance and insect pests of crops

The management of arthropod pests of public health importance is generally similar to that of insect pests of crops, although some differences may occur.

  1. Cost – related differences. In particular, the economic threshold is always taken into consideration in integrated pest management programs in agriculture (IPM), thus the population density of crop pests determines the response time. In the case of arthropods of public health importance there is not any threshold of this sort, since health matters, but the aim is to protect as many people as possible given the financial constraints.
  2. Every planning to control arthropods of public health importance should consider the complexity of the urban environment, which comprises the home environment, the workplace and public places. Therefore, actions should be undertaken in these three fields at the same time and initiatives should be also taken by the state in this direction.


The “recipe” for controlling effectively arthropods of public health importance

In order to control effectively these arthropods a series of actions must be followed:

  • Identification of the arthropod species to be controlled.
  • Knowledge of the biology and ecology of the arthropod species to be controlled, i.e. their biological cycle and potential hosts, diseases that can be transmitted and the mechanism of transmitting diseases, etc.
  • Monitoring of the population of arthropods by suitable sampling methods to detect their breeding sites and places where adults are gathered as well as to record when population outbreaks occur, etc.
  • Recording of possible measures that can help to reduce the population density of the species to be controlled along with the evaluation of the performance of each measure. The evaluation is based on previous experience acquired from other applications or information gathered after having surveyed the relevant literature.
  • Choosing the most suitable method or a combination of methods to be used in order to achieve the best possible result with the lowest risks for humans and the environment and, if feasible, with less spending.
  • Determining the response time. The determination of the response time is a key factor for the success of the control of those arthropods, because it maximizes the outcome and reduces the required number of interventions.
  • Deciding about the entity or entities that will undertake the control programs against arthropods of public health importance and deciding about the body to control these entities. This is crucial, since the controlling body of those entities must have no connection with the authorities assigning or carrying out control programs against arthropods of public health importance.
  • Informing and instructing the public about the prevention and management of arthropods of public health importance.

Editing: Dr Antonios Michaelakis/Dr Evangelos Badieritakis