Weatherwatch: climate crisis causing tropical viruses to spread
Infections such as dengue fever are on rising in Europe as virus-transmitting mosquitoes expand habitats
This summer, dengue fever got a foothold in France. Traditionally this viral infection, which is spread by mosquitoes, has been confined to tropical regions including parts of Asia, the Americas and the Caribbean, but as the climate warms, dengue-spreading mosquitoes are making themselves comfortable in France.
In 2010, France recorded its first locally transmitted cases of dengue – transmitted by French mosquitoes and caught by someone who hadn’t travelled to an at-risk country. Since then there have been about 12 cases of locally transmitted dengue each year, but this summer that jumped to nearly 40 points. Meanwhile, more than 570 cases of West Nile virus – another tropical mosquito-transmitted virus – have been recorded in Europe this year, with most in Veneto, northern Italy.
“It seems that the lowlands of Veneto are emerging as an ideal habitat for the Culex mosquitoes, which can host and transmit West Nile virus,” said Michael Head, a global health expert at the University of Southampton, in The Conversation.
Changing temperatures and rainfall patterns are creating new habitats and expanding the range of virus-transmitting mosquitoes. Health authorities are taking the threat seriously, with entomologists catching and testing mosquito populations to spot if they are harbouring anything new, such as malaria, yellow fever, Zika or dengue, before it starts to spread.
… we have a small favour to ask. Millions are turning to the Guardian for open, independent, quality news every day, and readers in 180 countries worldwide now support us financially.
We believe everyone deserves access to information that’s grounded in science and truth, and analysis rooted in authority and integrity. That’s why we made a different choice: to keep our reporting open for all readers, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. This means more people can be better informed, united, and inspired to take meaningful action.
In these perilous times, a truth-seeking global news organisation like the Guardian is essential. We have no shareholders or billionaire owners, meaning our journalism is free from commercial and political influence – this makes us different. When it’s never been more critical, our independence allows us to fearlessly investigate, challenge and expose those in power. Support the Guardian for as little as $1 – it only takes a minute. If you can, please consider supporting us with a regular amount each month. Thank you.