The Guardian has reported that Europe faces a growing threat of tropical disease outbreaks as temperatures increase. Health experts said that rising temperatures linked to climate change cause illnesses that are brought by travellers to spread more easily. For example, there has been a spike in West Nile virus infections in Europe following high temperatures, compared with the past four years. The World Health Organization’s regional office for Europe said that the spike was due to an early start to the transmission season, caused by high temperatures followed by wet weather, which are conditions ideally suited to mosquito breeding.
“Mosquitos and ticks are cold-blooded and are affected by higher temperatures. At higher temperatures, mosquitos replicate faster. Pathogens in the mosquito also replicate faster. Everything is speeded up and you get higher turnover, bigger populations of mosquitoes and a growing epidemic potential for viruses,” said Professor Jan Semenza, who leads on scientific assessment for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. “We are all a bit taken aback about how fast these changes are coming down the pipeline. We are seeing more and more of these extreme weather events.”
According to The Guardian, researchers are predicting that the risk for transmission of dengue fever, Chikungunya and Zika could rise in Europe as a result of climate change, while Semenza said he is concerned about the spike of West Nile fever and its implications for local transmission of other vector-borne diseases. “We have never seen so many cases of West Nile fever so early in the season. This is a dramatic increase. What it means in public health terms is we need to become more concerned about blood safety. If someone returns from abroad to Europe and has a virus in their blood, the Aedes mosquito can bite them, take up the pathogen and then bite someone else,” he said.