Significant contributions to safeguarding public health come through management practices including the use of chemical or biological interventions to control the spread of harmful organisms or the carriers that transmit them. This means having approaches that are appropriate in the home as well as in public places, such as hospitals, schools, restaurants, hotels, forests, parks and water bodies.
Disease or infection spread by an insect or some other organism, such as a snail or a rat, pose varying levels of threat to public health, from a minor nuisance to life-threatening epidemics. Rats, for example, are carriers of fleas and mites which carry endemic diseases such as bubonic or septicemic plague.
Weeds can create problems ranging from poisoning or skin irritations to physical obstructions on roadsides and railways. For example poison ivy, a commonly occurring weed, causes an allergic reaction that produces severe irritation followed by blistering.
Perhaps the largest threat to public health is caused by insects. For example, about 3.3 billion people – half of the world’s population – are at risk of malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes.
How are pesticides helping to safeguard public health?
Vector control involves the reduction of a disease by targeting the vector that transmits and spreads that disease. The vector may be a rodent, an insect or any other organism – but insects are by far the most significant vectors, impacting the well-being not only of humans but also of wild animals and domestic livestock.
Pesticides make a vitally important contribution to public health programs across the world in controlling the pests and the diseases they transmit. The use of pesticides for controlling disease vectors has been proven highly effective and is consistently supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).
There are a variety of pesticide uses, from insecticides suitable for household use to control insects such as flies and cockroaches, to large-scale application to control mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit.
There are also rodenticides to manage mice and rat populations and herbicides for the management of weeds.
Vector control works most successfully when pesticides are used within an Integrated Vector Management (IVM) framework. IVM is defined by the WHO as a rational decision-making process for the optimal use of resources in the management of vector populations.