September 3, 2006

Climate change ups Europe infectious disease threat

NORWICH (Reuters) - Diseases not normally seen in Europe
are now starting to appear because of the world's changing
climate, a scientist said on Monday.

Professor Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia in
England, told a British science conference that erratic weather
that will cause flooding and drought will also lead to changes
in the incidence of infectious disease.

"There are already significant indications of disease
burden occurring in Europe as a result of climate change," he
told the conference.

An illness called Vibrio vulnificus which is caused by a
marine organism particularly in the Gulf states of the United
States has been reported in three people swimming in the Baltic

A death also occurred in Denmark, according to Hunter.

The disease, which can be caught by eating shellfish, or
through swimming in infected water with an open wound, causes a
skin infection and other symptoms and can be fatal. The
organism usually lives in waters that are 20 degrees Centigrade
(68 Fahrenheit) or higher.

People on the Italian coast have also been infected by an
organism called Ostreopsis ovata that has been able to extend
its habitat because of warmer sea waters.

"Over 100 holidaymakers have been reported as taken to
hospital with a variety of symptoms, including diarrhea, skin
rashes and hay fever type illnesses," Hunter told the BA
Festival of Science conference.

Congo Crimea Haemorrhagic Fever has also caused problems in
recent years in areas where it had not previously been a

"The view is that it is not because of warmer summers but
because winters are not as cold as they used to be," Hunter

The insect-borne disease causes bleeding from the skin,
mouth and nose.

"There are already very clear signals that infectious
diseases are changing as a result of climate change," he said.