Vector-borne diseases

Vector-borne diseases are infectious diseases caused by bacteria, parasites and viruses, that are transmitted by infected arthropod vectors from animals to humans, between humans and between animals. 

What are vector-borne diseases?

Vector-borne diseases are diseases caused by bacteria, parasites and viruses that are transmitted by the bite of infected arthropod vectors, such as mosquitos, ticks, sand flies and fleas. Vectors can transmit pathogens from animals to humans, between humans and between animals. The presence of the diseases depends on the presence of vectors and animal/human reservoirs, which is influenced by many factors, such as climate change, international travel, trade and land use.

In Europe, the highest disease burden in humans is caused by tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme borreliosis. But mosquito-borne diseases are emerging.  

Tick-borne diseases

Tick-borne diseases are spread by the bite of infected ticks. Lyme borreliosis (or Lyme disease) is the most common disease transmitted through ticks. Other diseases include anaplasmosis and tick-borne encephalitis.

Mosquito-borne diseases

Mosquito-borne diseases are spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Examples are West Nile fever, chikungunya, dengue, zika and malaria. For more information, consult the specific webpage on mosquito-borne diseases, or by disease under ‘Health topics A-Z’. 

Other vector-borne diseases

Other vectors that can transmit pathogens and cause disease are e.g. fleas, lice, mites, sand flies, biting flies and Culicoides. Leishmaniosis, plague and rickettsiosis are examples of such infectious diseases transmitted by these vectors. These diseases are rare (and travel-related) or absent in Belgium. 

Sciensano is responsible for the epidemiological surveillance of several vector-borne diseases in humans and animals and for the surveillance of tick-bites and exotic Aedes mosquitoes in Belgium. In addition, research is carried out on possible vectors and virus-vector-host interactions. 

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