‘Climate change is causing a jump in microscopic diseases’

As mosquitoes thrive, so do diseases such as dengue and chikungunya, the WHO has said

Big Zero Report 2023

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that climate change and deforestation are leading to increasing outbreaks of deadly microscopic diseases.

Zika, dengue and chikungunya are some of the viruses linked to climate change – all being carried to humans by mosquitoes.

The insects thrive in tropical climates and therefore the frequency of infection has risen, as temperatures have done the same.

The WHO’s study revealed that since 2000, the number of dengue cases has drastically gone up from around 500,000 worldwide to 5.2 million in 2019.

There are now an estimated 100 to 400 million infections each year, with around half the world at risk of the disease.

Mosquitoes thrive in climate change due to more humidity, higher temperatures and more heavy rainfall – which has seen an uptick in their numbers during recent years.

Raman Velayudhan from the WHO said: “Climate change has played a key role in facilitating the spread of the vector mosquitoes down south. And then when people travel, naturally the virus goes along with them.”

Chikungunya cases have also risen from 50,000 last year to 135,000 in 2023 – with the WHO revealing this disease is far more deadly than dengue.

This virus is normally found close to South America but with temperatures increasing drastically in Europe, the report has warned that a spread to the continent cannot be ruled out.

The WHO has advised increased use of mosquito repellent and attempts to destroy breeding sites of the flies.

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