As Earth warms, the range of numerous infectious disease is moving up North, including Europe. Tropical disease such as Malaria, Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya, West Nile Virus… are already becoming a serious health threat for us.
Infectious diseases are particularly sensitive to climatic conditions. Longer, hotter summers, warmer winters or increased annual rainfalls could enable vector organisms like ticks, mosquitoes and rodents etc. to shift habitats. This would introduce diseases to areas previously unfamiliar with them, like Germany.
Summer 2018 saw a sharp and shocking spike in West Nile virus infections in Europe, following soaring temperatures (compared with the past four years). 1503 cases of the mosquito-borne disease were recorded in Europe by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Sadly, 180 of these were fatal1. Countries affected include Italy, Greece, Hungary, Serbia and Romania.
Other diseases that may become more common include Chikungunya fever, Dengue fever, Malaria, and visceral Leishmaniasis2. Warmer climates have also encouraged the spread of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and encephalitis3. Even food-borne diseases (such as Salmonella and Campylobacter) seem to be highly temperature-sensitive – meaning that increased average temperatures could seriously affect food safety4. Finally, climate change will also influence water quality and availability (both drinking and bathing). Water-borne diseases, such as those caused by Cryptosporidium in drinking water and Vibrio bacteria in bathing water, will become much more of a threat5.
Our health is at stake, we need to act now!
14 Dec 2018, Epidemiological update: West Nile virus transmission season in Europe, 2018, ECDC, European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. ↩︎
Semenza & Suk, 2017, Vector-borne diseases and climate change: a European perspective, FEMS microbiology letters 365(2):fnx244. ↩︎
Ostfeld & Brunner, 2015, Climate change and Ixodes tick-borne diseases of humans, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 370(1665):20140051. ↩︎
Yun et al., 2016, Association between the ambient temperature and the occurrence of human Salmonella and Campylobacter infections, Nature Scientific reports 6:28442. ↩︎
Rathke, 9 Aug 2019, Vibrionen in der Ostsee: Erster Todesfall in MV – vier weitere Infektionen, Ostsee Zeitung. ↩︎