Health experts are fearing that increasing temperatures and climate change in the UK could bring an influx of deadly tropical diseases to these shores in the next few decades.
Mosquito-borne diseases such as Malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus and chikungunya are primarily associated with being prevalent across Africa and Southern America, but could reach Britain in years to come, according to experts writing in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal by Dr Jolyon Medlock and Professor Steve Leach, of the emergency response department at Public Health England.
Confirmed cases of dengue fever, West Nile virus and chikungunya have already been seen in certain parts of Europe and Greece in particularly has witnessed high numbers of malaria cases as mosquitoes shift into new territories.
Conditions are thought to be warm enough for the Asian tiger mosquito to survive in Britain and this type of blood-sucking insect has already nestled in 25 different European countries, bringing with it dengue fever to Croatia and France, with chikungunya being spread to both Italy and France.
In France alone, there have been 200 cases of chikungunya, and by 2041 in London, conditions could allow for transmission by mosquitoes for one month a year in London by 2041 and for three months in the South-east by 2071 because of predicted temperature rises
However, in the UK, climate change models are predicting higher temperatures and increased rainfall in the next few decades – offering mosquitoes “ideal conditions” to survive and spread their deadly diseases.
Remarkably, the UK is already thought to be home to up to 34 species of mosquito, with many f of these able to transmit malaria.
There is one climate model that shows that by the year 2030, southern England may generally increase in temperature enough for malaria to be transmitted for up to a third of the year. A different climate model even shows there could be conditions that suffice for malaria to be able to be transmitted for around two months of the year as far up the UK as southern Scotland.
“There is little doubt that climate change will affect vector-borne disease risk,” the authors warn in their paper.
They further state that despite climate change being a clear key issue in the transmission of diseases like dengue fever and malaria, other factors need to be taken into account, such as the availability of water for the mosquitoes to lay their eggs.
If you are travelling abroad and require malaria medication for prevention and treatment, Doxycycline, Malarone, Paludrine, and Jungle Formula Maximum Pump Spray are options worth considering. In addition, don’t forget to check the NHS Fit For Travel website where you will find the recommended malaria medication for your destination.