Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are largely preventable, even without vaccines. Clean water, sanitary food handling, and good hygiene can prevent diseases such as guinea-worm disease, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis, and trachoma.
Vector-borne NTDs—those that are spread by worms, flies, mosquitoes, or other hosts—can be prevented through control of the vectors themselves. This can include mass spraying of insecticides in areas where the vectors breed or gather, killing them before they become parasite carriers. Scientists are also exploring ways to genetically alter the vectors so that they cannot carry the parasite. The genetically altered vectors would then be released into the population to breed and spread their genetic abnormalities to future generations.
Educating the at-risk population is also an important aspect of NTD prevention. By controlling environmental factors that invite NTDs, people can reduce their risk. For instance, eliminating areas of standing water, where mosquitoes like to breed, will reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, or sleeping under a treated bed net will reduce the risk of diseases carried by flies that circulate at night. Travelers to areas where insect-borne NTDs are widespread should take care to wear protective clothing, use bug repellant, and sleep under a treated bed net.