Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Urgent warning to European holidaymakers as dengue fever cases spike

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  • Cases of mosquito-borne diseases are rising significantly in Europe
  • Climate change is creating warmer conditions that help mosquitos spread



If you’re heading to Europe for your summer holiday, a new report may raise alarm bells for you.  

Cases of dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases are rising significantly in Europe, the EU’s health agency has warned. 

Experts say that climate change is creating warmer conditions that help invasive mosquitos spread.

‘Europe is already seeing how climate change is creating more favourable conditions for invasive mosquitos to spread into previously unaffected areas and infect more people with diseases such as dengue,’ said Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

‘What we can see is that there is a connection between a higher temperature in summer, a milder winter and the spread of the mosquitos further in areas where they are not present right now.’

Cases of dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases are rising significantly in Europe, the EU’s health agency has warned
Experts say that climate change is creating warmer conditions that help invasive mosquitos spread

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In 2023, 130 locally acquired cases of dengue were reported in the region comprising the European Union (EU) plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway (EEA), compared to 71 in 2022.

This was a ‘significant increase’ from the 2010-2021 period, when the number for the entire period was 73, the ECDC said.

Imported cases were also on the rise, with 1,572 cases in 2022 and 4,900 in 2023, ‘the highest number’ since the start of EU monitoring in 2008.

For West Nile virus, 713 locally acquired cases were reported in 123 different regions in nine EU countries in 2023, and 67 deaths.

While the number of cases was down from 1,133 in 2022, the number of affected regions was the highest since 2018.

The mosquito responsible for spreading the West Nile virus, Culex pipiens, is native to Europe and is present throughout the EU/EEA, the ECDC said.

The Aedes albopictus mosquito, known for transmitting the dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses, ‘is spreading further north, east and west in Europe, and now has self-sustaining populations across 13 EU/EEA countries’, the ECDC said.

For West Nile virus, 713 locally acquired cases were reported in 123 different regions in nine EU countries in 2023, and 67 deaths. While the number of cases was down from 1,133 in 2022, the number of affected regions was the highest since 2018
The agency said the establishment of coordinated measures, such as insecticidal nets and indoor residual spraying, were crucial to combat mosquito-borne illnesses

The Aedes aegypti species, responsible for spreading yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya and Zika, has recently established itself in Cyprus and several outermost EU regions, such as Madeira and the French Caribbean islands, it said.

‘It is widely anticipated that climate change will largely impact the spread of mosquito-borne diseases in Europe, for instance, through the creation of environmental conditions favourable for the establishment and growth of mosquito populations,’ the ECDC said.

The agency said the establishment of coordinated measures, such as insecticidal nets and indoor residual spraying, were crucial to combat mosquito-borne illnesses. 

It also recommends simple measures such as removing stagnant water from balconies and gardens and personal protective efforts to reduce the risk of mosquito bites.

What is dengue fever? 

Dengue is a viral infection spread by mosquitoes. 

In most cases, the infection is mild and passes in around a week.

Symptoms usually include:

  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Widespread rash
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite

There is no cure or specific treatment. 

Patients can relieve their symptoms via painkillers, staying hydrated and resting.

In rare cases, dengue symptoms can develop into severe dengue, with symptoms including:

  • Severe skin bleeding with spots of blood on and under the skin
  • Blood in the urine and stools
  • Respiratory distress – when the lungs cannot provide the vital organs with enough oxygen
  • Organ failure
  • Changes in mental state and unconsciousness
  • Dangerously low blood pressure

Severe dengue is usually treated via a blood and platelet transfusion, IV fluids for rehydration and oxygen therapy if levels are low. 

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