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The UK finds itself increasingly vulnerable to the spread of diseases traditionally confined to tropical regions. AFP News

In a recent report, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) sounded the alarm about the potential surge of up to 10,000 additional deaths annually in the UK by the 2050s due to the increasing threat of extreme heat and the potential influx of tropical diseases.

As global warming continues to reshape weather patterns, the UK finds itself increasingly vulnerable to the spread of diseases traditionally confined to tropical regions.

The disconcerting statistics are derived from the UKHSA's Health Effects of Climate Change (HECC) report, a comprehensive examination of the current impact of the climate crisis on health outcomes in Britain.

The UKHSA report identifies a range of tropical diseases transmitted by insects, including malaria, dengue fever and Zika virus, as potential threats in the face of escalating temperatures.

The report also underscores that the changing climate creates conducive environments for insect vectors, such as mosquitoes and ticks, to thrive in new regions as facilitated by the arrival of species native to warmer regions.

Previously unseen in the UK, these vectors are capable of transmitting diseases that were once considered exotic and confined to distant shores.

The report outlines a dire scenario where average temperatures could spike by 4.3C, leading to a twelvefold increase in heat-related fatalities by 2070.

The projections also indicate a troubling 1.5 times rise in deaths by the 2030s.

One concerning example cited in the report is the potential establishment of the Asian tiger mosquito, known to transmit dengue, Zika and the chikungunya virus.

According to the projections, this mosquito species could become prevalent in most of England by the 2040s and 2050s, extending its reach to encompass most of Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of the Scottish Lowlands later in the century.

The report goes further to suggest that London might witness endemic dengue transmission by the year 2060.

Professor Isabel Oliver, the chief scientific officer at UKHSA, remarked on the gravity of the findings, stating: "This report starkly demonstrates the impact that climate change could have on our society if we do not take decisive action. We can expect major impacts on physical and mental health, while our changing climate will also exacerbate existing health inequalities."

With temperatures on the rise, the UK must be vigilant in monitoring and addressing the associated health risks.

Malaria, a disease predominantly associated with sub-Saharan Africa, is one of the primary concerns outlined in the report.

While malaria has been eradicated in the UK since the mid-20th century, the resurgence of its mosquito vector could pose a renewed threat.

The report urges healthcare professionals to familiarise themselves with the symptoms of tropical diseases, ensuring swift diagnosis and treatment.

To combat the potential threat, the UKHSA advocates for a multi-faceted approach, including public awareness campaigns, enhanced mosquito control measures and robust surveillance systems.

Additionally, the report calls for increased collaboration between healthcare professionals, environmental agencies and the public to create a unified front against the emerging health risks associated with climate change.

"In the UK many of the anticipated adverse impacts on health are still avoidable through mitigation measures, while others are preventable if the necessary adaptation measures are introduced. Therefore it is critical that the evidence in this report is used to inform policy and action," Prof Oliver said.

As the UK grapples with the tangible effects of global warming, the UKHSA's report serves as a stark reminder that climate change is not only an environmental concern but also a significant public health issue.

Policymakers, healthcare providers and the public must work together to adapt and respond to the evolving landscape of infectious diseases, ensuring the nation is equipped to face the challenges posed by the changing climate.