Global warming could cause the emergence of mosquito-borne viruses such as dengue fever and chikungunya in the UK, leading public health officials have warned.
Dr Jolyon Medlock and Professor Steve Leach from the Emergency Response Department at PHE, writing in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, suggested that as the UK's temperature rose, the climate would be more hospitable for mosquitos. In turn, this would lead to the spread of diseases usually confined to tropical regions. The researchers have suggested that that just a 2°C rise in temperature could extend the mosquito's activity season by a month and geographical spread by up to 30% by 2030.
Dr Medlock said: 'Given the ongoing spread of invasive mosquitoes across Europe, with accompanying outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya virus, PHE has been conducting surveillance at seaports, airports, and some motorway service stations. Although no non-native invasive mosquitoes have been detected in the UK so far, a better system to monitor imported used tyres, in which disease-carrying mosquitoes lay their eggs, needs planning.'
The emergence of chikungunya is particularly concerning for public health officials. Figures released by PHE have shown that 295 cases were reported in 2014, compared with 24 in 2013. Dr Hilary Kirkbride, head of Travel and Migrant Health at PHE, said: 'Chikungunya is an unpleasant viral illness that can cause fever and joint pains, which in some patients may persist for a prolonged period. Prevention relies on avoiding mosquito bites particularly around dusk and dawn when day biting mosquitoes are most active, as there is no specific preventive medicine or vaccination against chikungunya.'