Dengue fever cases seen in Europe linked to tiger mosquitoes

An invasive species of mosquito has established itself in 13 EU countries, including France, Spain, and Greece, contributing to a rise in dengue fever cases in Europe, according to experts. 

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) blames the spread of the tiger mosquito to climate change, which is creating favourable conditions needed for them to survive. 

Over the past two decades, mosquitoes have become an increasing threat in Europe. The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, considered the world’s most invasive mosquito species, is spreading from its base in southern Europe.

It is now established in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, and Spain, with sightings in Belgium, Cyprus, Czechia, the Netherlands, and Slovakia.

Authorities have been monitoring and trapping the insect as far north as Paris. The ECDC has also warned that international travel will heighten the risk of further outbreaks in Europe. 

They recommend that people eliminate stagnant water from gardens and balconies, where mosquitoes breed, and use repellents and screens on windows and doors to prevent bites.

Tiger mosquitoes spread diseases like dengue fever, chikungunya, and Zika virus, which were previously confined to Africa, Asia, and the Americas. 

Dengue fever begins with flu-like symptoms but can escalate to severe and sometimes fatal illness. Mass outbreaks have been increasing, with eight incidents of multiple infections reported in France, four in Italy, and two in Spain last year. 

While most European cases are imported due to international travel and trade, with nearly 5,000 imported cases last year, locally-acquired infections are also on the rise. In 2023, 130 people contracted dengue locally, up from 71 the previous year.

Another mosquito species, Aedes aegypti, which transmits yellow fever and other diseases, has been found in Cyprus. Experts are concerned about its potential to spread across Europe due to its preference for biting humans and its disease transmission capability.

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “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. 

Increased international travel from dengue-endemic countries will also increase the risk of imported cases, and inevitably also the risk of local outbreaks.”

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