Climate change, according to European Union officials, is increasing the risk of mosquito-borne viral infections such as dengue and chikungunya across Europe.
According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the conditions are more favourable for invasive mosquito species like Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti because Europe is experiencing a warming trend, with heat waves and flooding becoming more frequent and severe, and summers getting longer and warmer.
The Stockholm-based organization claimed in a paper that Aedes albopictus has been spreading farther north and west in Europe and is a known carrier of the chikungunya and dengue viruses. The other mosquito, Aedes aegypti, has been present in Cyprus since 2022 and may expand to other European nations. This mosquito is known to spread the dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, zika, and West Nile viruses.
A decade ago, the Aedes albopictus mosquito was established in eight European countries, with 114 regions affected. This year, the mosquito is established in 13 countries and 337 regions, the ECDC said.
“If this continues, we can expect to see more cases and possibly deaths from diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and West Nile fever,” ECDC director Andrea Ammon said. “Efforts need to focus on ways to control mosquito populations, enhancing surveillance and enforcing personal protective measures.”
According to the agency, removing standing water where mosquitoes reproduce, utilizing environmentally friendly larvicides, and raising community understanding about mosquito management are all effective approaches to reduce mosquito populations.
The ECDC advised using mosquito bed nets, sleeping or resting in screened or air-conditioned rooms, dressing in clothing that covers the majority of the body, and applying insect repellent to protect oneself.
It said that raising awareness about diseases transmitted by mosquitoes is essential.
There is no specific treatment for dengue. While about 80% of infections are mild, severe cases can lead to internal bleeding, organ damage and death.
Chikungunya fever, a debilitating disease that is suspected of afflicting tens of thousands, was first identified in Africa in 1953. It causes severe pain in the joints but is rarely fatal. There is no vaccine and it is mainly treated with pain medication.
Ammon reported 1,339 locally acquired cases of West Nile infections in Europe in 2022, including 104 deaths, the highest incidence since an epidemic in 2018.
Symptoms of West Nile fever include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea, and exhaustion. West Nile fever usually goes away on its own, however symptoms can continue for weeks or months.