The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that a mosquito-borne disease that kills thousands of people every year is set to become a major threat in the US within the next decade.
WHO chief scientist, Sir Jeremy Farrar warned that dengue fever could take hold in the southern US and southern Europe before the year 2030 and said that hospitals really needed to start planning for disease now.
Dengue fever is a virus that is transmitted to humans when they are bitten by mosquitoes.
The Mail Online reports: He warned warming temperatures allowing mosquitoes that can carry the disease to venture deeper into the country would drive the rise.
About 20,000 people die from dengue fever every year mostly in Asia and South America, figures show. The disease has a fatality rate of one death per 100 patients.
Every year there are about 1,200 cases recorded in the US, nearly 600 of which are locally-acquired infections. But there are concerns the disease is spreading after California recorded its first locally-acquired infection for a decade last month.
Scientists say dengue fever could become endemic in the US if infected mosquitoes in Mexico manage to move further North.
They also warn infected travelers coming into the US could introduce the virus if they are bitten by local mosquitoes, which then become infected and start transmitting the disease to other people.
The disease is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, already found in some areas of the south, which is active at all hours and can reproduce in even the smallest pools of water.
Dr Farrar told Reuters: ‘We need to talk much more proactively about dengue.
‘We need to really prepare countries for how they will deal with the additional pressure that will come… in the future in many, many big cities.’
He added: ‘The clinical care is really intensive, it requires a high ratio of nurses to patients. I really worry when this becomes a big issue in sub-Saharan Africa.’