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Climate change leads to growing risk of mosquito-borne viral diseases, EU agency says

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — European Union officials warned Thursday there is a growing risk of mosquito-borne viral diseases such as dengue and chikungunya in Europe due to climate change.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said that because Europe is experiencing a warming trend, with heat waves and flooding becoming more frequent and severe, and summers getting longer and warmer, the conditions are more favourable for invasive mosquito species such as Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti.

The Stockholm-based agency said in a report that Aedes albopictus is a known vector of chikungunya and dengue viruses and has been establishing itself farther north and west in Europe.

The other mosquito, Aedes aegypti, known to transmit dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, zika, and West Nile viruses, has been established in Cyprus since 2022 and may spread to other European countries.

A decade ago, the Aedes albopictus mosquito was established in eight European countries, with 114 regions affected. This year, the mosquito is established in 13 countries and 337 regions, the ECDC said.

“If this continues, we can expect to see more cases and possibly deaths from diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and West Nile fever,” ECDC director Andrea Ammon said.

“Efforts need to focus on ways to control mosquito populations, enhancing surveillance and enforcing personal protective measures.”

Before, the diseases were imported from abroad, but ”now we have domestically acquired cases,” Ammon said in an online news conference.

The agency said ways to control mosquito populations include eliminating standing water where mosquitoes breed, using eco-friendly larvicides and promoting community awareness about mosquito control.