Europe Faces New Disease Threats
Europe faces risk of new disease outbreaks brought by warm temperatures. Experts warn that it may be difficult to detect and stop as travellers go in and out of the region.
Diseases threatening Europe include dengue, Lyme disease, malaria, West Nile virus and Zika. According to Jan Semenza, head of the scientific assessment for the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Sweden, the European Union is a hot spot for the emergence of communicable disease.
Lyme disease which is carried by ticks is gaining ground from Russia to Britain to Croatia. Travelers and traders also risk spreading dengue fever in southern European countries like Greece and Italy.
In 2015, 590 million people arrived at the European Union airports. The changing climatic conditions of the region make the diseases able to survive and spread. More than 60 percent of public health outbreak in Europe is driven by globalization and environmental change according to Semenza who spoke at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London.
Among the countries in Europe, only Britain and Spain claim that their disease surveillance systems are up to track new threats. Most countries said that they cannot handle climate change.
Tracking and predicting disease outbreaks are very important for countries to contain and prevent spread of diseases. Scientists need to have the information where dengue mosquitoes can survive in Europe, during which months and where and when passengers from dengue-outbreak countries arrive in Europe.
One of the most alarming disease threats that Semenza considers is Zika virus. The warming climate in Europe makes mosquito spread easily. In Latin America, the surge in the disease has also coincided with thousands of cases of microcephaly in children whose mothers have been exposed to the virus.
Zika virus is one of the dreaded disease Europe is facing and which the region cannot afford. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the cost of lifetime care for children with microcephaly is at $1 to $10 million each.