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Tropical disease threat to UK

Stuart Spear08/05/2013 - 13.00

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Anopheles mosquito
Anopheles mosquito

The CIEH is calling for the implementation of an EU-wide policy on mosquito control along with greater collaboration between EU states following growing evidence that mosquito-born diseases previously thought of as tropical may soon arrive in the UK.

Delegates at this week’s CIEH Wales public health conference were warned of a growing list of pest-born diseases that have become a ‘serious’ cause of concern in the UK as they move north through Europe. Diseases posing a potential threat include Dengue Fever, West Nile Virus, malaria and Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic fever.

‘With predicted changes to climate in the UK characterised with warming and wetter summers providing perfect breeding grounds for a number of pest borne diseases, we need to consider some robust public health measures to minimise the potential outbreaks,’ said Julie Barratt, director of CIEH Wales.

Potentially fatal pest-born diseases have been increasingly detected across Europe in recent years. Malaria was detected in Greece in 2011 while Dengue fever appeared in France and Croatia in 2010. Figures published last

August revealed that 115 cases of West Nile Virus have been reported in mainly Greece, Romania and Italy. In the US, West Nile Virus was first detected in Queens, New York in 1999, but has now spread across the entire country, with a major outbreak occurring in 2012.

Incidences of Lyme disease carried by infected ticks that live on deer and small mammals such as foxes and rabbits along with birds, have also been on the rise in the UK in recent years. In 2001 there were 200 confirmed cases rising to 959 by 2011. The true figure may be far higher as Lyme disease can be mistaken for other diseases including flu.

CIEH highlighted the growing issue of pests of public health significance in a joint publication with the World Health Organisation launched in the House of Commons in 2008. ‘Today the spread of West Nile Virus in the US and Lyme disease in Europe are warning signals of the impact of pests on public health,’ said Ms Barratt.

The CIEH wants to see government take the question of pest control seriously along with enhanced human and veterinary surveillance activities designed to help public health authorities implement control measures at source before they get out of control. It is also calling for greater public health information for the general population and better vector control strategies in potentially affected areas.

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