Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Infectious tropical disease spreads from India to Italy to Britain

This Is London: A crippling tropical disease spread by mosquitoes has taken a foothold in Europe and could be heading for Britain, climate change scientists have warned. In the last few weeks, more than 200 people in northern Italy have been infected with chikungunya - a disease that causes crippling muscle pain and fever. One died.

Health officials say it is the first time an outbreak of the disease has been confirmed outside the tropics. There are fears that a succession of warm summers and mild winters could allow it to spread to Switzerland, France and the UK. The warning came as United Nations scientists predicted rising world temperatures would bring more exotic diseases to Europe.

…This month Italy's ministry of health confirmed at least 200 cases of chikungunya in the Ravenna region. British travellers to the area have been told to protect themselves against mosquito bites. The European Centre for Disease Control advises pregnant women and those with serious illnesses to avoid the region. The disease is spread by the tiger mosquito, which first appeared in Italy 15 years ago.

Scientists say the insects were imported on secondhand tyres from India and has moved to France, Spain, Croatia and Switzerland. The disease was brought in by an Indian tourist. Scientists believe he was bitten by a tiger mosquito which passed the disease on.

Dr Bettina Menne, of the World Health Organisation, said: "We cannot say that the disease was caused by climate change, but the conditions in Italy are now suitable for the Tiger mosquito."…

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