Mosquito disease to reach UK within 20 years, climate report warns

England could be infested with disease-bearing mosquitoes within 20 years if the world fails to slow the process of climate change, according to an expert report.

The UK Health Security Agency issued its first report on the issue yesterday.

Its report says heat-related deaths in the UK could increase by 12 times within 50 years and it warns of the arrival of the mosquito, Aedes albopictus, in the UK. The insect can transmit dengue fever, chikungunya virus and zika virus.

The report was issued as the latest world summit on climate change stalled with oil-producing nations being accused of seeking to block agreements.

Analysis of the report by the Doctors’ Association shows it is warning of 10,000 extra deaths a year in the UK within 30 years, rising to 21,500 within 50 years. The Association warned the NHS would struggle to cope with rising levels of illness linked to climate change.

Dr Lea Berrang Ford, Head of Centre for Climate and Health Security at UKHSA, said: “The evidence is clear – climate change is not solely a future health threat. Health impacts are already being felt domestically and globally, and these risks will accelerate.

“Temperatures will likely continue to increase until at least mid-century, irrespective of the amount by which we decarbonise in the decades to come. Many current working-age adults will be over 65 years and potentially highly vulnerable to the health impacts of increased temperatures. A child born today will be in their working-age years when health impacts may peak or accelerate further, depending on how much we decarbonise now.”

Dr Ford added: “There are significant opportunities for win-win solutions that can combat climate change and improve health. The health decisions we make today will determine the severity and extent of climate impacts inherited by today’s youth and their children.”

The agency’s chief scientific officer Professor Isabel Oliver said: “This report starkly demonstrates the impact that climate change could have on our society if we do not take decisive action. We can expect major impacts on physical and mental health, while our changing climate will also exacerbate existing health inequalities.

“In the UK, many of the anticipated adverse impacts on health are still avoidable through mitigation measures, while others are preventable if the necessary adaptation measures are introduced. Therefore, it is critical that the evidence in this report is used to inform policy and action.”

Dr Matthew Lee, from the Doctors’ Association, said: “The NHS is simply not prepared for such an influx of illness.

“We already have record waiting times and the acute nature of the extreme weather events will eventually cause an annual summer peak of admissions as well as a winter crisis.

“Staff have already reached their limits with burnout and the NHS will not survive the climate crisis if urgent action is not taken now.
“Many of the changes that individuals can make, such as eating less meat and doing more active travel can have positive health and environmental effects.

“Time, however, is not on our side and we need the current Government and every political party to treat this with the same scale of action and urgency as seen with the COVID-19 pandemic response in order to have a chance of securing a safe and liveable future.”


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