CLIMATE change could increase the spread of diseases which are common in warmer countries to other parts of the world as temperatures rise across the globe, experts in Cork have warned.
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne illness which can cause fever, severe joint pain and internal bleeding.
There are around 100 million cases of the illness globally each year, with an estimated 10,000 deaths.
A recent study, conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, warned that dengue could increase in other parts of the world due to rising temperatures which would allow mosquitoes to travel further.
While the study highlighted areas like southeastern United States, China, Japan and inland regions of Australia, it did not rule out the disease spreading to Europe.
It is estimated that should current emissions trends continue, around 2 billion additional people could be at risk of dengue by 2080.
Dr Paul Leahy, lecturer in Wind Energy Engineering at University College Cork, said: “As temperatures increase in Europe due to climate change, environmental conditions may become more favourable for the spread of diseases which previously were associated with the subtropics.”
Dr Leahy is part of the ClimAtt project in UCC, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is examining the role of climate change in extreme weather events.
“The whole issue of climate change and human health is beginning to attract a lot of attention,” he added. “In many parts of the world these impacts will be felt through the spread of diseases, threats to drinking water supplies and exposure to heatwaves.”
Speaking to The Echo about dengue fever, Dr Paul McKeown, specialist in Public Health Medicine, said it is “one of the most serious of tropical diseases, and is particularly dangerous to children”.
He explained that infection with the dengue virus results in severe flu-like illness and is associated with the “yellow fever” mosquito.
“This mosquito is prevalent across the tropics but with the warming of the planet, its range is beginning to expand and encroach into, and carry its diseases to areas where it had never been found previously, such as the United States,” said Dr McKeown.
“More than 40% of the world’s population lives in dengue-endemic areas and the estimated number of cases of dengue fever is calculated to be as high as 300,000,000 annually.”