The Asian tiger mosquito continues to spread in Europe

The European Union’s health authority ECDC warns of an increased risk of mosquito-borne diseases due to changing climatic conditions. The Stockholm-based body said that the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), a known vector of chikungunya and dengue viruses, among others, is spreading in northern and western Europe.

So the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) has been established in Cyprus since last year and can also spread to other European countries. It transmits, among others, dengue, yellow fever and Zika viruses.


Consequences of climate change

The reason for the increased danger is climate change. The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) writes that Europe is getting warmer, heat waves and floods are becoming more frequent and intense, and summers are longer and warmer. This creates conditions more suitable for invasive mosquito species such as Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti. Ten years ago, the Asian tiger mosquito was detected in 8 countries of the European Economic Area (EEA), now there are 13. The number of affected areas has almost tripled over this period.

Andrea Ammon, director of the German Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that in recent years, a geographic spread of invasive mosquito species to previously unaffected areas of the European Union and European Economic Area has been observed. “If this continues, we can expect more cases and potential deaths from diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and West Nile fever.” The focus should be on controlling mosquito populations, improving surveillance and personal protection measures.

Potentially deadly pathogens

The Asian tiger mosquito has been home to southern Europe for some time, and it has also been spreading in Germany for some time. It can transmit dozens of viruses, including deadly pathogens such as dengue, chikungunya and zika viruses.

In Germany, there is no known case of such infection, but there are cases in neighboring countries: in southern France, for example, Zika infection caused by indigenous tiger mosquitoes has been reported several times. Dengue fever has been confirmed in Madeira, Croatia and France, for example. Chikungunya also spread in the Mediterranean region.

Danger looms not only from exotic mosquitoes

In addition, exotic mosquitoes are not the only potential carriers of dangerous diseases in Germany: a few years ago, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) recorded infections with West Nile virus, which originally came from Africa, in patients in Germany because for the first time a native mosquito had declined.

Because the pathogen can hibernate in mosquitoes in Germany, experts expect case numbers to increase until larger seasonal disease waves. There have been outbreaks of this kind for years in southern and southeastern European countries.

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