Vector-borne diseases and climate change: a European perspective

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Abstract

Climate change has already impacted the transmission of a wide range of vector-borne diseases in Europe, and it will continue to do so in the coming decades. Climate change has been implicated in the observed shift of ticks to elevated altitudes and latitudes, notably including the Ixodes ricinus tick species that is a vector for Lyme borreliosis and tick-borne encephalitis. Climate change is also thought to have been a factor in the expansion of other important disease vectors in Europe: Aedes albopictus (the Asian tiger mosquito), which transmits diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya, and Phlebotomus sandfly species, which transmits diseases including Leishmaniasis. In addition, highly elevated temperatures in the summer of 2010 have been associated with an epidemic of West Nile Fever in Southeast Europe and subsequent outbreaks have been linked to summer temperature anomalies. Future climate-sensitive health impacts are challenging to project quantitatively, in part due to the intricate interplay between non-climatic and climatic drivers, weather-sensitive pathogens and climate-change adaptation. Moreover, globalisation and international air travel contribute to pathogen and vector dispersion internationally. Nevertheless, monitoring forecasts of meteorological conditions can help detect epidemic precursors of vector-borne disease outbreaks and serve as early warning systems for risk reduction.

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