Asian tiger mosquitoes carrying dengue fever could be common in England by the middle of this century, according to government health experts.
The insects have spread across large parts of Europe in recent years because of warmer conditions – and tend to live in urban areas and feed during the day, putting people at greater risk.
They are known for their striped body and its potential to spread dengue fever, zika virus and chikungunya – diseases normally associated with tropical regions.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) fears dengue fever could be transmitted in London by 2060, and the mosquito itself could become widespread across England in the 2040s.
Jolyon Medlock, an entomologist at UKHSA, said monitoring at borders can help slow the spread of mosquitoes – and people can keep them away by covering any standing water or empty containers, as the insects lay eggs in them.
UKHSA chief executive Professor Dame Jenny Harries said: “Things that when I trained many years ago were called tropical diseases will actually become national domestic diseases.”
Officials also said other food or water-based infectious diseases could become more common, with an increased risk of more pandemics.
Danger from extreme heat will worsen and so will flooding, which can also damage people’s mental health.
Food prices are also likely to become more volatile as much of what the UK imports is from regions sensitive to climate impacts such as drought.
Wildfires that produce toxic smoke are also expected more frequently during hotter, drier summers.
Young children, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions are most vulnerable to these threats.
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“In the summer of 2022, UK temperatures reached above 40C for the first time on record,” Dame Jenny said.
“We had nearly 3,000 excess deaths recorded across that extended heat period while many other countries have experienced bouts of intense and prolonged heat in recent months.
“Using a high emission scenario, UK health-related deaths are estimated to increase by over 100% in the 2030s, over 500% in the 2050s, and over 1,000% by 2070.”
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The Earth has already warmed by 1.2C above pre-industrial levels and the amount of carbon in the atmosphere means further warming is already locked in even if emissions start declining overnight.
This means some adaption is necessary, the UKHSA said, alongside the reduction in emissions and making improvements to housing, flood defences and extreme temperature warnings.
Dame Jenny added: “Climate change is an important threat which undermines public health right across the globe, not only by increasing the mortality burden of extreme temperatures and weather effects, but through enhancing the spread of infectious disease and exacerbating the fragility of the global systems that our health depends upon, increasing the vulnerability of populations to existing geopolitical, energy and cost-of-living crises.”