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This chapter explores the medical entomology, which is concerned with the impact of insects and related arthropods on the mental and physical health of humans, domestic animals, and wildlife. It is often subdivided into public health entomology and veterinary entomology. These divisions are tenuous since many of the same arthropods cause similar injuries and diseases in both humans and other animals. Arthropods influence animal health in multiple ways.

The most significant impact involves their role as primary vectors and alternate hosts of many devastating infectious disease agents. Parasitic agents transmitted by hematophagous arthropods include filariae, protozoa, bacteria, rickettsia, and viruses.

Arthropods also affect the health of vertebrates directly by triggering altered mental states (delusional parasitosis and entomophobia/arachnophobia), contact allergies, feeding annoyance and blood loss, envenomization, and myiasis.

Protozoan parasites dominate in terms of worldwide importance in context of diseases. Malaria is the single most significant vector-borne disease, with an estimated 300 million people infected annually and over 1 million deaths among young children in Africa alone. It is endemic in most tropical and subtropical regions of the world, where it has been resurging since eradication attempts ended some 30 years ago. It is transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes and can be successfully treated with drugs if promptly available. Drug resistance is a growing problem. Tsetse-transmitted African trypanosomiasis remains a serious human disease in parts of tropical Africa, but its impact on domestic cattle production is even more severe.


In medical entomology, a vector is an arthropod responsible for the transmission of parasites (not diseases) among vertebrate hosts. Disease is the response of the host to infestation or infection with a parasite outside or inside the host's body, respectively. A parasite is any organism, including viruses, bacteria, protozoahelminths, or arthropods, that is dependent on the host for its survival. Parasites may or may not cause disease. When a parasite injures its host and causes disease, it is referred to as a disease agent, or pathogen.

A vector-borne disease, therefore, is an illness caused by a pathogen that is transmitted by an arthropod. Facultative parasites have both free-living and parasitic forms, whereas obligate parasites are totally dependent on their host(s) to sustain them. Ectoparasites live on or outside the host, whereas endoparasites live inside the host. When interacting with their hosts, ectoparasites produce an infestation that typically remains topical or peripheral, whereas endoparasites produce an infection on invasion of host tissues or cells. The manifestation of disease depends on the host–parasite interaction after infection. A host carrying a parasite is said to be infected, whereas an infected host capable of transmitting a parasite is infectious. A host capable of parasite maintenance, particularly in infectious form, without clinical symptoms is a carrier.

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