Deadly mosquitoes carrying Zika virus could invade the UK this summer
Fears have been raised that mosquitoes carrying the deadly Zika virus could invade the UK this summer
The Asian tiger mosquito, which is native to South East Asia, has spread to Europe via the transport of goods. It is already present in Italy and the South of France and is travelling around 93 miles north per year.
Why are mosquitoes likely to be attracted to the UK?
Experts have warned that the insect, which has been spotted in the UK in the past, could take hold due to rising temperatures in Europe, linked to climate change.
The Asian tiger mosquito is one of the main disease-transmitting mosquitoes. It is known to often carry tropical diseases including Zika, dengue fever and West Nile virus.
With temperatures expected to be around one degree higher in the UK by 2040, the climate would be more suitable for the species to live here. According to the British Pest Control Association rising spring temperatures offer a fertile environment for insects to thrive.
Research into tackling disease spread
Recent studies from Liverpool and Oxford Universities have supported this theory, explaining that the rising temperatures could cause the mosquitoes to spread across western Europe.
The Department of Health has announced research funding to tackle the health effects of global warming, including dangers of disease spread by insects, the Telegraph reported.
“We’ve just seen the warmest February day on record and we have a duty to the public to consider the health challenges climate change brings,” said Health Minister Nicola Blackwood.
What is the Zika virus?
Zika is a tropical disease that is highly dangerous to pregnant women. It is mainly transmitted by mosquitoes.
It causes birth defects - most commonly abnormally small heads, a condition called Microcephaly.
The virus does not naturally occur in the UK, and previous outbreaks have been primarily in the Pacific region. It has also spread to South and Central America as well as the Carribbean.
What can you do?
The British Pest Control Association has said that, in order to limit the risk of mosquitoes taking hold, members of the public should take measures like removing standing water from birdbaths, wheelbarrows and blocked guttering.
Water butts should also be cleaned as they can provide excellent breeding conditions for insects.