Biting insects that transmit “vector-borne” infections once confined to equatorial regions have invaded parts of southern and eastern Europe.
A new study predicts it will not be long before the visitors arrive in Britain, bringing with them tropical diseases such as dengue fever and chikungunya.
The UK climate is already said to be suitable for mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus, an infection that causes a flu-like illness which on rare occasions can prove fatal.
No human cases have come to light so far. However, recently a species of Culex mosquito known to be the main carrier of West Nile Virus in Europe was discovered in Kent.
A bigger threat is the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) which spreads dengue fever and chikungunya. Both cause serious illnesses. Warmer temperatures and more rainfall could provide ideal conditions for the mosquito in the UK, said the scientists.
The Asian tiger mosquito has now been reported in 25 European countries and is widely established in large parts of the Mediterranean.
It has also been imported into the Netherlands trapped inside the rims of used tyres.
Climate change models show that a 2C rise in temperature could extend the mosquito’s activity season by one month and geographical spread by up to 30% by 2030, said the researchers writing in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.
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