AN explosion of deadly diseases could hit Europe as the weather gets warmer across the continent, experts have warned.
Widespread outbreaks of malaria, dengue fever and leishmaniasis as well as Lyme disease, could become more common, they said.
Getty – Contributor Warmer weather could cause a surge in deadly disease carried by mosquitoes, ticks and sand flies across Europe and parts of the UK, experts have warned
Climate change could cause more cases of leishmaniasis, a parasitic bug transmitted by sand flies that can cause nasty skin lesions and ulcers
And it’s all down to climate change, experts at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said.
As temperatures heat up, disease-ridden mosquitoes, ticks and sand flies are broadening their geographical horizons – travelling further afield.
It means the pests, typically found in warmer countries, could become a permanent fixture much closer to home.
We must prepare for large outbreaks
Prof Jan Semenza warned: “Climate change is not the only or even the main factor driving the increase in vector-borne diseases across Europe.
“But it is one of many factors, alongside globalisation, socioeconomic development, urbanisation and widespread land-use change, which need to be addressed to limit the importation and spread of these diseases.”
Meanwhile, Dr Giovanni Rezza, an infectious disease expert at the Istituto Superiore di Sanitá in Rome, Italy, said large outbreaks of these disease could flare up.
“The stark reality is that longer hot seasons will enlarge the seasonal window for the potential spread of vector-borne diseases and favour large outbreaks,” he said.
“We must be prepared to deal with these tropical infections.
“Lessons from recent outbreaks of West Nile virus in North America and chikungunya in the Caribbean and Italy highlight the important of assessing future vector-borne disease risks and preparing contingencies for future outbreaks.”
Tip of the iceberg
So far, global warming has allowed mosquitoes, ticks and other disease carrying insects to invade new parts of Europe over the last ten years.
As a result, we’ve seen outbreaks of dengue in France and Croatia, malaria in Greece, West Nile fever in south east Europe and chikungunya virus in Italy and France.
Worryingly, this might the tip of the iceberg, Dr Rezza said.
“Mediterranean Europe is now a part-time tropical region, where competent vectors like the tiger mosquito are already established,” he said.
Hotter and wetter weather could provide the perfect conditions for the Asian tiger mosquito to breed and invade larger swathes of Europe – including southern and eastern parts of the UK.
It’s the bug responsible for spreading viruses that cause dengue fever and chikungunya.
WHAT ARE THE DISEASES THAT COULD INVADE THE UK?DENGUE FEVER
It’s a viral infection spread by mosquitoes.
In most cases the infection is mild and passes in about a week.
But, it can be very serious and potentially life-threatening.
pain behind the eyes
muscle and joint pain
feeling and being sick
loss of appetite
Most people have heard of malaria – it’s a nasty tropical disease that can prove fatal.
A single mozzie bite is all it takes for a person to get infected.
feeling hot and shivery
The signs usually appear seven to 18 days after you get infected.
But it can lie dormant for up to a year.
This one is a parasite spread by sand flies.
There are three types, the most serious of which can be fatal.
The common form, CL causes nasty skin ulcers and lesions leaving life-long scars and serious disability in many cases.
Currently, the bug is more common in places like the Middle East and Asia, but as temperatures get warmer, experts warn sand flies will feel more at home on European and UK shores.
This infection is spread by tick bites, and is common in Asia and some parts of Europe already.
The ticks responsible are also currently found in Russia, China and Japan.
TBE can be nasty, encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain and can strike at any age.
Infections can trigger the condition, or the immune system can attack the brain in error.
In lots of cases, a person will show no symptoms of TBE.
In those people that do, they tend to appear about one to two weeks after being bitten.
First symptoms include flu-like illness, with fever and headaches. That lasts about five days.
Then a week of no symptoms is followed by the second phase of illness, when the brain and nerves are affected.
Neck stiffness, headache, nausea, impaired consciousness, tremours, personality changes and psychosis are all some of the signs.
These diseases are more common in hotter parts of the world because freezing temperatures kill a mosquito’s eggs.
The researchers warned we are already seeing a surge in cases of Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis – a deadly condition, that causes the brain to swell.
There are an estimated 65,000 cases of Lyme disease every year in Europe.
And in the last 30 years, experts have recorded a 400 per cent rise in cases of tick-borne encephalitis.
In future, Prof Semenza said, as conditions become more favourable for ticks, mosquitoes, public health bodies must be proactive, and act fast to contain outbreaks.
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“Given the ongoing spread of invasive mosquitoes and other vectors across Europe, we must anticipate outbreaks and move to intervene early,” he said.
“Public health agencies need to improve surveillance, for example through early warning systems, increase awareness of the potential risks among healthcare workers and the general public, as well as adopt innovative control strategies such as community interventions.”
The new research is presented at this year’s European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Amsterdam.
Getty – Contributor Tick-borne encephalitis that causes brain inflammation and can prove fatal
A disfiguring tropical disease that had been contained to Syria has no