Jun 20, 2019 | Updated: 03:45 PM EDT

Experts Warn Against the Expansion of Mosquito- and Tick-Borne Diseases in Warmer Climate

Apr 14, 2019 10:07 AM EDT

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Experts Warn Against the Expansion of Mosquito- and Tick-Borne Diseases in Warmer Climate
(Photo : Image by Zoran Dakovic from Pixabay)

This year's European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Amsterdam, Netherlands, revels in a new research presentation that the geographical range of vector-borne diseases like dengue fever, chikungunya, tick-borne encephalitis, and leishmaniasis is expanding rapidly.

With the spur of international travel and trade and also climate change, the outbreaks of vector-borne disease are set to increase across much of Europe over the next few decades, and not only in the temperate countries around the Mediterranean. Even areas in higher latitudes and altitudes that were not affected before, including some parts of northern Europe, could see an increase in the outbreaks unless action is taken to improve surveillance and data sharing. There must also be extra vigilance in monitoring environmental and climatic precursors to outbreaks, alongside other preventive measures.

Professor Jan Semenza from the European Cantre for Disease Prevention and Control, Stockholm, Sweden, said that climate change is not the primary factor that drives the increase in vector-borne diseases across Europe. He said it is one of many factors alongside socioeconomic growth, globalization, urbanization, and widespread land-use change which the public require to address to limit the importation and spread of these diseases.

Also in his word, the Director of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Istituto Superiore di Sanita in Rome, Italy, Dr. Giovanni Rezza, said that the stark reality is that longer hot season will enlarge the seasonal window for the potential spread of vector-borne diseases and favor massive outbreaks. Rezza urged the public to be prepared to deal with these tropical infections. Lessons from the recent outbreaks of West Nile virus in North America and chikungunya in the Caribbean and Italy highlight the essence of assessing future vector-borne disease risks and preparing contingencies for future outbreaks.

The authors of the study, however, made a caution that projecting the future burden of disease is difficult even with the complicated interplay between multiple drivers such as the international travel and warming temperatures, climate-change adaptation and weather sensitive pathogens.

Ticks, mosquitos, and other disease-carrying insects have the favour of the global warming to proliferate, adapt to different seasons, and invade new territories across Europe over the past decades - with accompanying outbreaks of dengue in France and Croatia, malaria in Greece, West Nile Fever in Southeast Europe, and chikungunya virus in France and Italy.

Professor Semenza said that they need to anticipate outbreaks and move to intervene early given the ongoing spread of invasive mosquitoes and other vectors across Europe. He warned that public health agencies must improve surveillance in the early warning system, increase awareness of the potential risks among healthcare workers and the general public, as well as adopt innovative control strategies like community interventions.

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