Global Warming Could Make West Nile Virus a Concern in UK
Following a study which has concluded that global warming will contribute to the spread of West Nile Virus to new regions in Europe Sir Liam Donaldson has warned this could include the UK. Talking on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme the Governments Chief Medical Officer said “We need a good contingency plan in case it comes. The basis of any good plan to control a new infectious disease like this is good surveillance. We need doctors to be aware of the symptoms. We need our labs to have the necessary testing in place.”
The virus which first emerged in 1999 killed a record 286 people in the USA last year while the total number of cases at 5,674 was the largest since 2003 . Scientists at the University of Haifa carried out the most recent study on the effects of climate change on the spread of the disease. Results showed that during heat wave conditions there was a dramatic increase in activity of the virus.
Spread by mosquitos that bite infected birds means increases in the insect population are also a major factor. In a recent advisory The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention commenting on last years high figures said, “Last summer’s outbreak likely resulted from many factors, including higher-than-normal temperatures that influenced mosquito and bird abundance, the replication of the virus in its host mosquitoes, and interactions of birds and mosquitoes in hard-hit areas,” Researchers in Haifa now plan to look for additional potential influences on the spread of the virus including the location of mosquito populations. It is hoped the work will lead to a better model for predicting the future spread of the virus in Europe.
See RIAMS insect advice sheets on mosquitos here.