Climate change will bring tropical diseases transmitted through insect bites to residents in Europe as the shifting weather patterns bring warmer temperatures to the northerly regions.

New research presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases in the Netherlands warned that diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, leishmaniasis, and tick-borne encephalitis will become more common in Europe in the next few decades if climate change remains unmitigated. Areas previously unaffected, including some parts of northern Europe, will see an increase in outbreaks.

"The stark reality is that longer hot seasons will enlarge the seasonal window for the potential spread of vector-borne diseases and favour larger outbreaks," stated Giovanni Rezza, the director of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Instituto Superior di Sanitá.

"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 importance of assessing future vector-borne disease risks and preparing contingencies for future outbreaks."

Tropical Disease Outbreaks In The Future Of Europe

The rising temperature has caused outbreaks of tropical diseases in Europe in the past decade. Dengue, for example, which is more common in Southeast Asia and the western Pacific Islands, has made its way to France and Croatia. A chikungunya outbreak was also previously declared in Italy and France.

Researchers warned that these outbreaks are just the beginning.

While insects carrying diseases can travel from outbreak areas to northerly regions, the critters normally cannot survive the colder climate in Europe. However, the rising temperature caused by climate change would give large parts of Europe the ideal conditions for insects like the Asian tiger mosquito to multiply and spread diseases.

Dr. Rezza commented that Mediterranean Europe is already experiencing warmer weather where the Asian tiger mosquito, which transmits dengue and chikungunya, has established itself.

Mosquitos are not the only critters to worry about either. Warmer winters and longer summers could make Europe breeding grounds for ticks, with Scandinavia having the highest risk.

Not Just Climate Change

While climate change is a primary driver for the expansion of these insects into Europe, researchers said that controlling the spread of diseases will become more complicated. Globalization, urbanization, socioeconomic development, and changes in land use have to be addressed in order to limit the spread of diseases.

The researchers hope that their study will encourage the authorities to anticipate and prepare for outbreaks.

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