North, south, east, west….home has least!!! Or so we would have thought some years ago!
Malaria is not something one would associate with the UK, but in recent years there has been an alarming increase in mosquito and other insect levels; now at record levels all over Europe – including the UK. Although malaria in England had effectively died out by the 1950s, mostly due to the draining of much of the marshland where mosquitoes bred, with the growth of global travel, the number of imported cases of the disease in the UK has risen, with nearly 2,000 a year today.
Based on a survey of UK local authorities, reports of mosquito bites over the last 10 years are 2.5 times greater than in the 10 years up to 1996. NHS Direct statistics show 9,061 calls in England complaining of bites and stings from early May this year to now – up nearly 15% from last summer. Not all bite complaints are due to mosquitoes – many can be attributed to bedbugs, midges and fleas. But conditions in the UK, particularly in south eastern England, are increasingly hospitable to mosquitoes. Not only do mosquitoes swarm over pools of standing water, including bowls left outside for pets, they appear under man-hole covers and even travel on London’s Tube network.
Our weather patterns have changed, the wet and warm near tropical weather we have experienced is ideal for breeding, and with the increase in travel to foreign climes, more and more people are either contracting or bringing back the diseases associated with mosquitoes. “The wet weather through May and June this year, along with a warm summer, has affected the population because mosquitoes like the standing breeding water,” says zoologist Michael Bonsall at Oxford University.
It is believed that malaria – literally “bad air” – dates back at least to Roman times in the UK, and outbreaks occurred as recently as the years just following World War I.
All the infections that the sun sucks up
From bogs, fens, flats, on Prosper fall
and make him by inch-meal a disease!’
‘He hath got, as I take it an ague…
he’s in his fit now and does not talk after the wisest.
He shall taste of my bottle:
if he have never drunk wine afore it will go
near to remove his fit…
Open your mouth: this will shake your
shaking… if all the wine in my bottle
will recover him, I will help his ague.’
William Shakespeare – The Tempest.
Mosquitoes have been around for over 120 million years – a lot longer than humans! Hovering perfectly at ear level with a lingering, bothersome whine, mosquitoes leave you with bites that lead to itchy, swollen welts.
Apart from the sting and your reaction to a bite, mosquitoes carry a wide range of pathogens and their consequent diseases.
And it’s not all about the pesky little mosquito either – diseases are caused by many other insects too, such as 20,000 different species of wasp. Other dangerous insects include: ticks, tsetse fly, hornets, fleas and non-see-ums that can all cause serious problems for humans; recently Eastern Europe, Russia and Turkey experienced a big outbreak of ticks and other insects.
Insect populations are growing at an alarming rate and there is now a 42% chance that malaria will return to the UK, and according to a recent lecture given by Professor Steve Lindsay at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine, in the next few years the risk will be well over 50%.
As a knock-on effect of global warming, mosquitoes have become more prevalent. They have begun to carry diseases into areas previously thought safe: e.g. West Nile fever and malaria outbreaks in the USA. There are no vaccines to prevent dengue and many other insect-borne illnesses. No anti-malarial drug is 100% effective either. Climate change is not a cause in the increase, in fact malaria levels dropped during the 1600’s mini ice-age and disappeared in the 1800s during a time of cold summers (even though during a time of global warming). Other important drivers of malaria include: deforestation; swamp clearance; population increase; antimalarial drug resistance; weak health systems. Once upon a time, malaria-carrying mosquitoes could be found in the salt marshes of south eastern England.
700 million people a year pick up a disease from a mosquito and mosquitoes are responsible for the deaths of 1 in every 17 people currently alive (this figure is probably higher now – Taubes G, “A mosquito bites back” NY Times 24-8-1977).
Of the reported 515 million cases of clinical malaria occurring in 2002 at least 300 million were acute cases, which resulted in 1,272,000 deaths!
According to the late Professor Curtis of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, “it is only a matter of time before malaria is back in the UK.” We will be increasingly at risk here, from all sorts of biting & stinging insects from now on, so it makes sense to learn how to effectively protect you & your loved ones now.
Now there is another option; it is possible to avoid getting bitten in the first place.
incognito’s new formulation will protect you against all ticks as well as insects and used in conjunction with an impregnated mosquito net, is clinically proven to protect against malaria, and is a most effective mosquito repellent.
incognito is the first company to introduce Long Lasting Impregnated (LLI) nets into the UK. By using this new technology the impregnation remains effective 5 times longer than standard impregnated mosquito nets. The nets can be washed without losing their effectiveness and all LLI mosquito nets sold by us meet the requirements of the WHO (World Health Organization). The impregnation is effective up to 2.5 years when used daily and the nets can be washed up to 20 times. The mesh we use in our nets has 365 holes to the inch, which is over twice the recommended standard for effective malaria protection of 156.
It’s a personal choice whether or not you still want to take anti-malarials, however the side effects from some of the anti-malarials are often worse than contracting malaria itself. Instead many travellers choose not to take them and carry a malaria antidote with them.
Malaria and dengue are on the increase worldwide due to drug, pesticide and insecticide resistance, climate change, deteriorating health systems, armed conflict and natural disasters. Mosquitoes are becoming immune to the insecticides used to treat them – via spray or bed nets, according to a recent study from Senegal. Between 2007 and 2010, insects with a resistance to a popular type of pesticide rose from 8% to 48%.
If you are going abroad you will need more insect repellent than usual – especially anywhere around the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, Scotland, and Sweden.
So whether you are ‘home or away’: if you value your life (or at least your holiday), it is imperative to protect yourself against insect bites.