3 Mosquito-Borne Illnesses in UK to Become Domestic by 2040

Mosquito-borne illnesses causing three tropical diseases are on the rise in the United Kingdom as a result of climate change, according to health officials.

Asian tiger mosquitoes, which transmit dengue, zika, and chikungunya, could establish themselves in England by the mid-2040s. In this article, we will explore more of these mosquito-borne illnesses, along with their signs, symptoms, and treatment.

What is the Asian Tiger Mosquito?

If you’re wondering what it looks like, an Asian tiger mosquito can be identified by the bright black shiny scales on the palpus and tarsi, as well as the characteristic silver-white scales on the palpus and tarsi.

The scutum is black with a white stripe running down the centre, beginning at the dorsal surface of the head and continuing down the thorax. It is a medium-sized mosquito – 2.0 to 10.0 mm in length, with males being 20% smaller than females on average.

The species’ global distribution encompasses the majority of Asia, as well as tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including introductions into the Caribbean. Originally restricted to Asia and the Pacific islands, the species’ range has spread to include North and South America, Africa, and Europe.

Moreover, the biting bug, which feeds during the day, has already spread over most of Europe in recent years, particularly in France, Spain, and Italy, as warmer weather has allowed it to travel alongside humans or through goods transit.

The Rise of Asian Tiger Mosquito Illnesses

Viruses from Asian tiger mosquitoes can cause mild diseases, such as headaches, muscle aches, and a rash. In severe situations, however, they can be fatal or cause difficulties in unborn babies. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) warns that the mosquito might spread throughout England by 2040, with dengue outbreaks extending to London by 2060.

‘Things that when I trained many years ago were called tropical diseases will become national domestic diseases.’ said UKHSA chief executive Professor Dame Jenny Harries.

The World Health Organization observed in a report on the health implications of climate change that all three viruses are epidemic in parts of the world, including Africa and Asia. However, dengue, zika, and chikungunya have all produced substantial epidemics in the United States during the last decade, with only a few cases in European countries.

Dengue Fever

Dengue fever has produced outbreaks of sickness throughout history, with the first occurring in the West Indies in 1635. It first appeared in Europe in 2010. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reported 71 instances of locally acquired dengue in 2022, with 65 in France and six in Spain. The toll is equal to the figure reported a decade ago.

The true toll, however, is considered to be underestimated because not all instances are tested.

According to studies, it performs best when temperatures range between 18.5°C and 33°C and rainfall totals between 6,000mm and 18,000mm per year. It is the world’s fastest-spreading mosquito-borne disease.

According to the UKHSA, this has put the UK in minimal danger, with annual average temperatures of 9.4 degrees Celsius and rainfall ranging from 800 to 1,400 millimetres. Already detected cases in the UK were linked to travel.

However, research has revealed that there is a ‘potential for the UK environment to become favourable for dengue in the future’. Some people infected with dengue will not develop symptoms. Those who do, however, usually have symptoms four to ten days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

A fever, intense headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, feeling and being ill, and a blotchy rash with elevated areas are among them. Still, most people recover without treatment in a matter of days.

Some people, however, get a severe version of the condition. This can result in stomach pain, vomiting, rapid breathing, bleeding gums or nose, and extreme weariness. Patients are held in hospitals until they recuperate since there is no treatment. Rest, plenty of drinks, and paracetamol are all suggested.

Zika Virus

Zika might spread in the UK, according to UKHSA officials. In 1947, scientists discovered the virus in a Ugandan bush among monkeys. Since 1950, sporadic outbreaks have occurred in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. In 2019, Europe witnessed its first zika case, when a person in France became ill.

Most persons who catch zika have no symptoms. Those who become ill typically experience a high temperature, headache, aching eyes, swollen joints, and a rash and itchy skin that resolves within a week.

The infection, however, can create difficulties in pregnant people. It disrupts the development of a baby’s brain and can result in a kid being born with an unusually small head.

Chikungunya Virus

The other mosquito-borne virus that health officials are concerned about is chikungunya. It was discovered in Tanzania in the 1950s and has since been detected in over 60 countries across Asia, Africa, and South America.

The first example of transmission in Europe was discovered in Italy in 2007 when 200 human cases were discovered. A subsequent 2017 outbreak killed 400 people in France.

According to research, typical temperatures must reach 20 degrees Celsius for chikungunya transmission to occur, and regions of the UK could experience this for months at a time beginning in 2040.

The symptoms are similar to dengue fever, including a fever, severe joint pain, muscular aches, headache, nausea, exhaustion, and a rash. Severe sickness, on the other hand, is uncommon.

Things to Consider

If you suspect a mosquito-borne disease, seek medical help right away to ensure the correct diagnosis and treatment. More importantly, you should rest and stay hydrated.

To prevent the transmission of the disease, use repellents, protective clothes, and bed nets to avoid mosquito bites. We also recommend you follow medical advice, including recommended drugs, while putting prevention first in places where these mosquito-borne illnesses are common.