Preventing the spread of diseases through international trade – Packaging Europe

Vector-borne diseases, i.e. diseases that are transmitted via blood-feeding insects such as mosquitos, ticks and fleas, have been increasing dramatically in recent years, and international trade is an important factor.

Lola Gómez Jiménez, Packaging Group researcher and Converting Processing Expert, AIMPLAS, Plastics Technology Centre explores how the Bio-Vectors project tackles the problem of making packaging both insect repellant and food safe.

Vector-borne diseases have been increasing at an alarming rate in the last 30 years, as stated in the article “Vector-transmitted diseases. A new challenge for public health surveillance systems”.  They are caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites transmitted to humans via mosquitoes, Phlebotomine sandflies, triatomine bugs, ticks, tsetse flies, mites and lice. The main vector-borne human diseases include malaria, dengue fever, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, chikungunya, Zika virus disease and yellow fever. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), these diseases account for around 17% of all infectious diseases worldwide and cause more than 700,000 deaths each year.  These diseases are primarily associated with Third World populations in tropical areas, but climate change on our planet has now enabled these pests to successfully spread to temperate regions. They are now a problem in many European populations and other economically developed regions, as shown in Figure 1.  

Another factor causing this displacement of vectors is international trade, which has increased considerably since the 1980s. According to the United Nations, global transport of goods is expected to grow by as much as 4.3%