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Watch again: Debate on climate change and its threat to our health

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A tiger mosquito
A tiger mosquito   -   Copyright  AP Photo
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Euronews has held a special debate about how climate change is increasing the risk of certain diseases for Europeans.

You can watch the discussion in the video player above.

On the panel were:

  • Professor Jan Semenza is an environmental epidemiologist from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
  • Carlo Buontempo, Director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service
  • Francesca de'Donato, Specialist in heatwave risks from Lazio Regional Health Authority.

Background

Climate change is increasing the risk of certain disease in Europe, with countries across the EU facing new threats as average temperatures rise.

Tropical diseases such as Dengue Fever, Zika, Chikungunya, and West Nile viruses are an emerging threat in Europe, as the Asian tiger mosquito that carries them can now survive all winter in many coastal areas and river valleys. This particular insect is slowly moving northwards and is now present in the Rhine and Rhône valleys.

Further north, around the Baltic, the Vibrio bacteria has traditionally enjoyed the brackish waters of the Baltic Sea, and now blooms whenever the surface temperature of the water rises above 15 degrees Celsius. The bacteria can lead to stomach upsets, or in the case of wound-infections, it can prove deadly.

Average temperatures are on the rise in higher altitudes and higher latitudes, meaning ticks can now live in new places, bringing with them the risk of Lyme disease infection.

Meanwhile, we have seen summer heatwaves become longer and hotter, creating health risks for the more vulnerable and elderly in our societies.

This is all happening against the backdrop of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The emergence of the coronavirus is not linked to climate change, but there are still unanswered questions about the evolution of the virus as the summer arrives, with many doubting that it will be seriously curtailed by the warmer weather. Those most at risk from COVID-19 are also in many cases the same people classed as being at risk from heatwaves, raising concerns about new waves of health challenges in the months to come.