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Europe Becoming ‘Hotspot’ For Emerging Infections, Study Suggests

“Europe is becoming a ‘hotspot’ for emerging infections as those typically confined to tropical climates are making their way north, according to research that links climate change to the global spread of disease,” the Financial Times reports. “Changing environmental conditions have facilitated the spread of bacteria and other carriers across borders, reports a study” published in the journal Science last week, according to the news service. The study, which “cited outbreaks of West Nile fever in Greece and Romania and dengue fever in France and Croatia,” found that, “[u]nder current weather conditions, seven climate-influenced diseases, including Rift Valley fever and encephalitis, could pose a threat to people in Europe,” the news service writes.

“Warming temperatures and changing rain patterns can introduce new pathogens into livestock, agricultural fields, waterways and cities, added the study, which used data collected by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC),” the Financial Times notes. “Of particular concern, said [Jan Semenza, an epidemiologist at the ECDC and lead author of the study], was the growth in zoonotic illnesses — those transmitted from animals to humans,” which “account for as much as three-quarters of emerging diseases worldwide,” the news service writes. “The threat posed by emerging infectious diseases may increase if the effects of climate change become more dramatic, the report found,” the Financial Times states, adding, “Possible scenarios include a rise in food-borne infections, drug resistance and vector-borne diseases, as well as a decline in the efficacy of existing vaccines” (Rowland, 4/26).