Water- and food-borne diseases
Published (reviewed and quality assured)
Justification for indicator selection
A rise in air and water temperature, extreme precipitation events, seasonal changes, storms, droughts and flooding, associated with climate change, can have implications for food- and water-borne diseases in Europe. These climatic events can alter growth rates of pathogens, contaminate drinking, recreational and irrigation water, and disrupt water treatment and sanitation systems. Conversely, potential impacts will be modulated by the quality of food safety measures, the capacity and quality of water treatment systems, human behaviour and a range of other conditions.
High air temperatures can adversely affect food quality during transport, storage and handling. Elevated marine water temperatures accelerate the growth rate of certain pathogens, such asVibriospecies that can cause food-borne outbreaks (seafood). On rare occasions, they may lead to severe necrotic ulcers, septicaemia and death in susceptible individuals exposed during bathing in contaminated marine environments. Floods and increased water flows can lead to the contamination of drinking, recreational or irrigation water and thus can increase the risk of water-borne diseases, such as cryptosporidiosis.
Attributing past trends in these diseases, or individual outbreaks, to climate change is very challenging, owing to data gaps for selected pathogens and climatic determinants. For example, legionnaires’ disease is associated with temperature and vapour pressure but not with climate change per se.
- IPCC, 2014: Europe. Kovats, R.S., R. Valentini, L.M. Bouwer, E. Georgopoulou, D. Jacob, E. Martin, M. Rounsevell, and J.-F. Soussana, 2014: Europe. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Barros, V.R., C.B. Field, D.J. Dokken, M.D. Mastrandrea, K.J. Mach, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 1267-1326.
- Time series of vibriosis infections in the Baltic Sea region
- Current and projected risk of vibriosis infections in the Baltic Sea region
- Number of cases per year (unitless)
- Risk (unitless)
Policy context and targets
In April 2013, the European Commission (EC) presented the EU Adaptation Strategy Package. This package consists of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change (COM/2013/216 final) and a number of supporting documents. The overall aim of the EU Adaptation Strategy is to contribute to a more climate-resilient Europe.
One of the objectives of the EU Adaptation Strategy is Better informed decision-making, which will be achieved by bridging the knowledge gap and further developing the European climate adaptation platform (Climate-ADAPT) as the ‘one-stop shop’ for adaptation information in Europe. Climate-ADAPT has been developed jointly by the EC and the EEA to share knowledge on (1) observed and projected climate change and its impacts on environmental and social systems and on human health, (2) relevant research, (3) EU, transnational, national and subnational adaptation strategies and plans, and (4) adaptation case studies.
Further objectives include Promoting adaptation in key vulnerable sectors through climate-proofing EU sector policies and Promoting action by Member States. Most EU Member States have already adopted national adaptation strategies and many have also prepared action plans on climate change adaptation. The EC also supports adaptation in cities through the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy initiative.
In September 2016, the EC presented an indicative roadmap for the evaluation of the EU Adaptation Strategy by 2018.
In November 2013, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted the 7th EU Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) to 2020, ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. The 7th EAP is intended to help guide EU action on environment and climate change up to and beyond 2020. It highlights that ‘Action to mitigate and adapt to climate change will increase the resilience of the Union’s economy and society, while stimulating innovation and protecting the Union’s natural resources.’ Consequently, several priority objectives of the 7th EAP refer to climate change adaptation.
No targets have been specified.
Related policy documents
7th Environment Action Programme
DECISION No 1386/2013/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 20 November 2013 on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. In November 2013, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted the 7 th EU Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. This programme is intended to help guide EU action on the environment and climate change up to and beyond 2020 based on the following vision: ‘In 2050, we live well, within the planet’s ecological limits. Our prosperity and healthy environment stem from an innovative, circular economy where nothing is wasted and where natural resources are managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected, valued and restored in ways that enhance our society’s resilience. Our low-carbon growth has long been decoupled from resource use, setting the pace for a safe and sustainable global society.’
Climate-ADAPT: Mainstreaming adaptation in EU sector policies
Overview of EU sector policies in which mainstreaming of adaptation to climate change is ongoing or explored
Climate-ADAPT: National adaptation strategies
Overview of activities of EEA member countries in preparing, developing and implementing adaptation strategies
DG CLIMA: Adaptation to climate change
Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. It has been shown that well planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives in the future. This web portal provides information on all adaptation activities of the European Commission.
EU Adaptation Strategy Package
In April 2013, the European Commission adopted an EU strategy on adaptation to climate change, which has been welcomed by the EU Member States. The strategy aims to make Europe more climate-resilient. By taking a coherent approach and providing for improved coordination, it enhances the preparedness and capacity of all governance levels to respond to the impacts of climate change.
Implementing the European Regional Framework for Action to protect health from climate change
How far have Member States in the WHO European Region progressed in implementing the European Commitment to Act on climate change and health? This was the question addressed to members of the Working Group on Health in Climate Change (HIC) of the European Environment and Health Task Force in summer 2012. The HIC members were asked to respond to a comprehensive questionnaire to assess the current status of health-relevant climate change mitigation and adaptation actions. A total of 22 Member States answered the questions focusing on eight thematic areas or topics: governance, vulnerability, impact and adaptation assessments, national and subnational adaptation strategies, climate-change mitigation, strengthening of health systems, awareness raising and capacity building, green health services and sharing best practices. This publication describes and analyses their responses.
Key policy question
How is climate change affecting water and food-borne diseases?
Methodology for indicator calculation
Epidemiological data for Baltic Sea Vibrio cases were collected from a variety of sources.
Associations between epidemiological data on the emergence and dynamics of Vibrio disease and sea surface temperature (SST) records were examined and extrapolated to future SST projections.
Methodology for gap filling
- Baker-Austin et al. (2013): Emerging Vibrio risk at high latitudes in response to ocean warming. Craig Baker-Austin, Joaquin A. Trinanes, Nick G. H. Taylor, Rachel Hartnell, Anja Siitonen & Jaime Martinez-Urtaza (2013). Emerging Vibrio risk at high latitudes in response to ocean warming. Nature Climate Change 3, 73–77, doi:10.1038/nclimate1628
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
Data sources in latest figures
See under "Methodology".
Data sets uncertainty
The attribution of health effects to climate change is difficult owing to the complexity of interactions and the potential modifying effects of a range of other factors (such as land-use changes, public health preparedness and socio-economic conditions). Criteria for defining a climate-sensitive health impact are not always well identified, and their detection sometimes relies on complex observational or prospective studies, applying a mix of epidemiological, statistical and/or modelling methodologies. Furthermore, these criteria, as well as the completeness and reliability of observations, may differ between regions and/or institutions, and they may change over time. Data availability and quality are crucial in climate change and human health assessments, both for longer term changes in climate-sensitive health outcomes and for health impacts of extreme events. The monitoring of climate-sensitive health effects is currently fragmentary and heterogeneous. All these factors make it difficult to identify significant trends in climate-sensitive health outcomes over time, and to compare them across regions. In the absence of reliable time series, more complex approaches are often used to assess the past, current and future impacts of climate change on human health.
The links between climate change and health have been the subject of intense research in Europe in the early 2000s (e.g. the projects cCASHh, EDEN, EDENext and Climate-TRAP); more recently health has been incorporated, to a minor extent, into some cross-sectorial projects (e.g. CIRCE, PESETA II, IMPACT2C and RAMSES). Furthermore, the World Health Organization (WHO) has a policy, country support and research mandate given by its 193 Member States through the World Health Assembly on all aspects of climate change and health The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) assesses the effects of climate change on infectious diseases and has also established a pan-EU network dedicated to vector surveillance (VBORNET).
No uncertainty has been specified
Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Long term work
Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoHans-Martin Füssel
Frequency of updates
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
For references, please go to http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/water-and-food-borne-diseases-1 or scan the QR code.
PDF generated on 25 Mar 2017, 10:49 PM