- The World Health Organisation (WHO) says
global warming could lead to a major increase in insect-borne diseases
in Britain and Europe.
- It has called for urgent government action
to prepare for the spread of diseases like malaria and encephalitis.
- The average temperature in Europe has
increased by 0.8C during the past century and the average global temperature
could rise by another 3.5C by the year 2100, as heat is trapped in the
atmosphere by a build-up of gases such as carbon dioxide.
- This would be accompanied by changes
in rainfall patterns, greater precipitation and humidity in the atmosphere,
and many new areas of floodwater.
- This in turn could lead to an increase
in disease-carrying pests such as ticks, mosquitoes and rats, which live
in warmer climates and whose breeding-grounds are often in damp areas.
- Three countries in the European region
covered by the WHO - Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Turkey - are already danger
zones for mosquito-borne malaria.
- The WHO says the disease is likely to
spread to further areas within eastern Europe, and from there, possibly,
to western areas.
- If northern Europe becomes warmer, ticks
- which carry encephalitis and lyme disease - and sandflies - which carry
visceral leishmaniasis - are likely to move in.
- Call for urgent action
- WHO researchers, who include experts
from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Public
Health Laboratory Service in London, say few countries in Europe have assessed
the impact of climate change on human health.
- "There is an urgent need to consider
how to improve research and monitoring and how to minimise adverse health
impacts," they write in a report in the British Medical Journal.
- They also called for improved co-ordination
between European countries, to share information and research and plan
efforts to combat the problem.
- The publication of the report coincides
with the third European Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health
in London, which is organised by the WHO.
- Ministers from 51 member countries are
expected to sign a protocol on water and health during the three-day conference.
They are also expected to consider a charter on transport, environment
and health to reduce air pollution from cars.