Climate change and vector-borne disease outbreaks: what you need to know

Posted on Sep 18, 2023

In recent years multiple examples of infectious diseases occurring in unusual and non-endemic places have appeared globally, as climate change, urbanisation, global travel and population growth continue to alter pathogen dynamics. 

Vector-borne diseases in particular, such as dengue and malaria are becoming more common in southern parts of the US and Europe. While tick-borne diseases are spreading north in both the US and Europe, with incidence increasing in countries such as Estonia and Sweden. 

Last year France reported 65 locally acquired dengue cases, more than the country has seen in 11 years, and the largest dengue transmission event ever documented in Europe. Spain has also recently confirmed the first locally transmitted dengue fever case on the mainland in four years.

Adverse weather events and disease spread

Record-breaking temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere and the arrival of El Niño heighten concerns about the health consequences of a warming climate. Higher temperatures create fertile grounds for disease-carrying vectors, such as mosquitoes, to flourish.

This summer the US saw its first locally acquired malaria infections for twenty years. This is when mosquitoes feed on an infected person, who brought the virus into the country from abroad, and spread it to other people in the region. Florida and Texas are most a risk of local malaria transmission, largely due to increased travel from malaria endemic countries. Airfinity’s analysis of flight data shows the number of people arriving to Florida from malaria-endemic countries has increased 63% since 2015.

Unusually warm sea surface temperatures are also contributing to an increase in the frequency and severity of hurricane events in the Atlantic, with an above-normal season expected in 2023. Hurricanes often result in the proliferation of infectious diseases due to overcrowding and displacement, limited or no access to vector control programs and changes in the environment e.g. water availability (storm surge) and temperature/humidity, all resulting in changes to pathogen-host interaction.

Both Haiti and Florida saw a rise in cholera and West Nile neuroinvasive disease incidence, respectively, after hurricane events. The recent landfall of Hurricane Idalia in the Southeast US is predicted to bring outbreaks of vector-borne diseases such as West Nile fever, malaria, and Eastern Equine encephalitis.

Airfinity Biorisk

Airfinity Biorisk equips decision makers with a holistic overview of the global infectious disease space, tracking over 150 viral, fungal, parasitic and bacterial pathogens.

Airfinity captures billions of data points from thousands of sources, ensuring extensive coverage at both disease and country level to provide independent risk assessments and predictions. These risk frameworks provide multi-dimension rankings by analysing the pathogen dynamics of an emerging outbreak, as well as a country’s ability to cope with different scenarios through health infrastructure, diagnostic capacity, and other medical countermeasures.

Our analysts provide a One Health lens while assessing a given outbreak for a more holistic view of a given situation, as well as incorporating other alternative data sources to use in models such as flight travel data.

Learn more about Airfinity Biorisk and request a demo here:

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