… By midmonth, more than 100 people had come down with the same malady. Although the worst symptoms dissipated after a couple of weeks, no doctor could figure out what was wrong.
People blamed pollution in the river. They denounced the government. But most of all they blamed recent immigrants from tropical
Oddly, the villagers were both right and wrong. After a month of investigation, Italian public health officials discovered that the people of Castiglione di Cervia were, in fact, suffering from a tropical disease, chikungunya, a relative of dengue fever normally found in the
Aided by global warming and globalization, Castiglione di Cervia has the dubious distinction of playing host to the first outbreak in modern
"By the time we got back the name and surname of the virus, our outbreak was over," said Dr. Rafaella Angelini, director of the regional public health department in
The epidemic proved that tropical viruses are now able to spread in new areas, far north of their previous range. The tiger mosquito, which first arrived in
"This is the first case of an epidemic of a tropical disease in a developed, European country," said Dr. Roberto Bertollini, director of the World Health Organization's Health and Environment program. "Climate change creates conditions that make it easier for this mosquito to survive and it opens the door to diseases that didn't exist here previously. This is a real issue. Now, today. It is not something a crazy environmentalist is warning about."
…But the biggest mystery is whether chikungunya will emerge here next summer. In the tropics, it is a year-round disease, because the mosquitoes breed continually. But the virus can winter over in mosquito eggs, too, and no one knows if there are reservoirs of sleeping eggs in some pool of water in