Climate change is raising concerns among doctors in the United Kingdom who have issued warnings that the UK could face dengue outbreaks in the future.
The concern follows the case of a 44-year-old woman who contracted a tropical disease during a visit to southern France in September 2022.
Although the patient showed symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle pain, and rash for three days, no Further medical intervention was required.
The woman had returned to southern France days before experiencing symptoms, and her family, who lived with her, also reported similar symptoms.
Climate change has contributed to the spread of dengue by creating more favorable conditions for mosquitoes to breed and spread the virus. Rising temperatures and increased rainfall create ideal conditions for mosquitoes to reproduce and survive.
Climate change may alter the distribution and behavior of mosquitoes, allowing them to expand into new areas.
What is dengue?
Dengue, or dengue fever, is a viral infection transmitted by the bite of a female Aedes mosquito carrying the dengue virus (DENV). Humans contract the virus when the mosquito feeds on the blood of an infected person.
After a week, the mosquito becomes capable of transmitting the virus to a healthy person by biting them. The disease cannot be transmitted directly from person to person.
Dengue symptoms may not always appear, but if they do, they usually show up four to 10 days after infection.
The World Health Organization notes that dengue is usually not a serious disease and may resolve on its own, while the NHS agrees that the disease can often improve without medical intervention.
Symptoms of dengue fever and how is it spread?
Dengue fever is transmitted by the bite of female yellow fever mosquitoes infected with the dengue virus.
Some of the symptoms may resemble that of the flu, according to the NHS website – these include:
- A high temperature
- Pain behind the eyes
- Severe headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Joint and muscle pain
- Swollen gland
- Nausea, vomiting
- Aches and pains (eye pain, typically behind the eyes, muscle, joint, or bone pain)
- Any warning sign
- Stomach pain
- Constant vomiting
- Breathing abnormally fast
- Bleeding gums or nose
- Extreme fatigue
- Restlessness (unable to relax)
- Blood in vomit and poo
Who is at risk of being infected?
Dengue is widespread in tropical regions such as parts of Africa, Asia, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, the Pacific islands, and some areas of southern North America.
Countries in Europe, including Croatia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Madeira, are also susceptible during the warmer seasons.
At-risk groups are:
- Young children and infants
- People aged over 65
- Pregnant women
- People with a weakened immune system
Why could UK get Dengue fever outbreaks in future?
The Asian tiger mosquito, which transmits the disease, is becoming more prevalent in southern Europe due to climate change.
Dr Owain Donnelly has warned that this may lead to increased dengue outbreaks in more parts of Europe, especially with higher temperatures and more rainfall, and increased global trade and tourism.
The Agence Regionale de Santé (ARS) of France reported three separate outbreaks of dengue virus transmission contracted on national territory between June and September 2022, without the patients having traveled abroad.
Dr Donnelly has warned that climate change, including higher temperatures and increased rainfall, along with increased global trade and tourism, may lead to increased dengue outbreaks in more parts of Europe.
The World Health Organization recently revealed that half of the world’s population is now vulnerable to dengue, with approximately 100 million to 400 million infections reported annually.
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