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Deadly mosquito-borne diseases could threaten UK within decades, experts warn

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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Mosquitoes carrying deadly diseases including dengue fever and West Nile virus could become widespread across Britain within decades due to climate change, health experts said on Monday.

Warmer temperatures and increasing rainfall could provide ideal conditions for the Asian tiger mosquito, which spreads the viruses causing dengue and chikungunya, to breed and expand into Britain, said a study in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.

Vector-borne diseases which are transmitted by insects such as mosquitoes and ticks, are on the rise and have spread across new parts of Europe, including Greece, Italy and France, over the past decade, the study said.

“Lessons from the outbreaks of West Nile virus in North America and chikungunya in the Caribbean emphasise the need to assess future vector-borne disease risks and prepare contingencies for future outbreaks,” said Steve Leach from the emergency response department at Public Health England, a government body responsible for improving health and wellbeing.

An outbreak of chikungunya in the Caribbean was first identified in December 2013. By January this year the number had soared from two cases to more than 1.13 million in the Caribbean, Latin America and the United States.

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