A Cyprus-based platform dedicated to predicting and managing insect-borne diseases raised an alarm on Wednesday about the increasing threat of tiger mosquito-borne infections in Europe.

The Early Warning Decision Support platform VEClim, part of the Climate and Atmosphere Research Centre of the Cyprus Institute, has released new assessments emphasising the growing risk of dengue, chikungunya, and other mosquito-borne infections becoming widespread in Europe.

VEClim’s latest data underscores the urgent need for intensive vector surveillance and preventive measures to protect public health in the coming months.

Zika, chikungunya, and dengue fever are spread by the Aedes albopictus mosquito, commonly known as the Asian tiger mosquito due to its origin and distinctive white-on-black stripes. This highly invasive species arrived in Europe in the 1970s and, boosted by climate change, has since spread across the continent. This has rendered new areas susceptible to disease outbreaks and poses a significant public health risk.

VEClim supports Early Warning Systems by using climate-sensitive models to predict mosquito activity and outbreak risks. Its recent assessments, available on veclim.com, indicate that much of Europe is vulnerable to the establishment of the tiger mosquito, with frequent yet relatively small outbreaks of dengue and potentially other arboviral diseases expected. This confidence is bolstered by the alignment between high-risk areas and the 275 locally acquired dengue fever cases reported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) between 2010 and 2023.

The platform predicts a global expansion of at-risk areas this year compared to the past decade. In Europe, heightened risks are identified along the environmental suitability limit, spanning from the Netherlands to Turkey and extending towards the Levantine and Mesopotamian regions.

VEClim has identified major cities of high risk, including Athens, Barcelona, Bucharest, Istanbul, Madrid, Milan, Naples, Paris and Rome as well as other cities in the Levantine and north Africa.

VEClim’s assessments highlight the critical need for extensive and continuous vector monitoring and the surveillance of travel-related and locally acquired cases. Early warning and decision support systems like VEClim can be vital for planning effective monitoring and control measures in an environmentally sustainable manner.

An exemplary case is the prediction of the suitability of Cyprus’ climate for the tiger mosquito nearly a decade before its arrival and establishment on the island. Leading this prediction and subsequent discovery, the Cyprus Institute now collaborates with the health ministry to implement effective and environmentally friendly control strategies against the invasive mosquito species on the island.