Climate change puts Britain at risk of mosquito-borne diseases

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London, March 23 (IANS) Climate change could accelerate the emergence of vector-borne diseases such as chikungunya, dengue fever, and West Nile virus in Britain, says a new study.

The findings detailed in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases indicate that vector-borne diseases, which are transmitted by insects such as mosquitoes and ticks, are on the rise and have spread into new territories across Europe — malaria in Greece, West Nile virus in eastern Europe, chikungunya in Italy and France — over the past decade.

“We are not suggesting that climate change is the only or the main factor driving the increase in vector-borne diseases in the UK and Europe, but that it is one of many factors,” said professor Steve Leach from Public Health England, UK Department of Health.

Disease-carrying mosquitoes could become widespread across large parts of Britain within the next few decades as the climate becomes increasingly mild, the authors pointed out.

More rainfall and warmer temperatures could provide ideal conditions for the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), which spreads the viruses that cause dengue and chikungunya, to breed and expand in Britain, particularly southern England, they added.

Previously dengue transmission was largely confined to tropical and subtropical regions because freezing temperatures kill the mosquito’s larvae and eggs, but rising temperatures could enable A albopictus to survive across large parts of England and Wales within decades.

Climate change models indicate that just a two degree Celsius rise in temperature could extend the mosquito’s activity season by one month and geographical spread by up to 30 percent by 2030, the researchers noted.

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