Europe is facing a growing threat of tropical disease outbreaks, as rising temperatures linked to climate change cause illnesses brought by travellers to spread more easily, health experts warned.
This summer has seen a sharp spike in West Nile virus infections in Europe, following soaring temperatures, compared with the past four years. Until the middle of August, 400 cases of the disease, which is carried by mosquitos, were recorded in Europe, with 22 fatalities, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Countries affected include Italy, Greece, Hungary, Serbia and Romania, all of which have recorded cases of the tropical infection in the past.
The spike was due to an early start to the transmission season, caused by high temperatures followed by wet weather, conditions ideally suited to mosquito breeding, according to the World Health Organization’s regional office for Europe.
“We are all a bit taken aback about how fast these change are coming down the pipeline,” said Prof Jan Semenza, who leads on scientific assessment for the ECDC. “We are seeing more and more of these extreme weather events.”
Semenza, who studies how climate change and other global environmental changes, such as the rise in international travel, affect public health, said higher temperatures make it easier for disease-carrying vectors, such as mosquitos, to transmit disease.
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