‘Dengue fever is coming!’ Why Britain could become tropical disease breeding ground

The UK is currently in the grip of an intense heatwave. All around the country temperatures have often exceeded 30C in the weeks passed. London, for example, has seen the longest stretch of high temperatures in almost six decades.

The Met Office said temperatures exceeded 34C in the city for the sixth day in a row – the first time that has happened since at least 1961.

Parts of South Wales and the South West experienced similar temperatures for prolonged periods.

No sooner had the heatwave started than awe-inspiring thunderstorms engulfed much of the country on Thursday.

Many have quietly warned that the polar extremes in the weather are a sign of things to come as the effects of climate change and global warming become more visible.

Heat and thunderstorms, however, aren’t the only things that will accompany climate change.

Disease more common in countries with tropical climates along the equator will now, experts warn, begin to make their way into territories that had hitherto proved uninhabitable, like the UK.

In 2015, Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust warned The Observer that his real fear as the UK warmed was increases in instances of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne viral disease that causes fever, headache, and – on occasions – dangerous drops in blood pressure, and about 2.5 percent of cases prove fatal.

He explained: “Before 1970 only seven countries had experienced serious dengue outbreaks.

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“Today it has taken hold in more than 100 countries.

“We have had outbreaks in Spain, Italy and Florida, and it is not unreasonable to think there will be dengue transmission in the southern UK in years to come.

“I am not saying it is coming overnight, but it wasn’t in Florida or Spain a couple of decades ago and it is starting to appear there.

“Other viral diseases, such as yellow fever and West Nile fever, may also follow suit.”


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Around the same time as Mr Farrar’s warning, the NHS released a report warning over a potential rise in “UK mosquito-borne diseases”.

It said that, as mosquitoes thrive in warm and wet environments, a rise in temperature “could make the UK a more attractive destination”.

It goes on to say that “this could then lead to an increase in three diseases – malaria, dengue fever and chikungunya (a viral infection with symptoms similar to malaria) – in the UK by as early as 2030”.

The UK is already home to more than 30 native mosquito species, none of which carry disease.

With rising global temperatures, humidity and spreading urbanisation are the specific drivers of the dengues spread.

This is, Mr Farrar explained, because it is transmitted by the Aedes genus mosquito, which likes heat and has become urban-adapted.

The warnings are hypothetical and may be thwarted should the global community pull together to reduce the severity of climate change.

Presently, however, communities up and down the country are working to alleviate the damage caused by severe storms after the heatwave.

Three people have died after a passenger train derailed near Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire. It is thought the train hit a landslide after heavy rain and thunderstorms.

A major incident was also declared in Fife.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said it received more than 1,000 emergency calls overnight due to the severe weather.

Ten properties in Lancashire were also affected by flooding following overnight storms, according to the Environment Agency.

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