Vector-borne diseases

Indicator Specification
Indicator codes: CLIM 037
Created 19 Dec 2016 Published 20 Dec 2016 Last modified 20 Dec 2016
10 min read
Current distribution of Ixodes ricinus ticks Current distribution of Aedes albopictus Climatic suitability for the mosquitos Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus Current distribution of West Nile virus infections Projected change in the climatic suitability for chikungunya transmission Projected distribution of West Nile Virus infections

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)

Rationale

Justification for indicator selection

Climate change can lead to significant shifts in the geographic and seasonal distribution ranges of vector-borne diseases in Europe, but there remain significant knowledge gaps related to attributing historical shifts in infectious disease transmission to climate change, as well as to projecting future transmission patterns.

Climate can affect vector-borne diseases by affecting the life cycles of disease vectors and the replication rates of viruses and parasites inside vectors and human hosts. Temperature increases may shorten the life cycles of vectors and the incubation periods of vector-borne pathogens, thereby potentially leading to larger vector populations and higher transmission risks, but beyond certain thresholds pathogen growth in vectors might be interrupted. Over the longer term, seasonal changes could affect both vectors and host animals, as well as human behaviours and land-use patterns, thereby further influencing the geographical distribution, seasonal activity and overall prevalence of vector-borne diseases in Europe. Furthermore, climatic suitability is essential for the arrival, establishment and spread of ‘exotic’ diseases that are not currently established in continental Europe. However, in addition to climate change, the risk of communicable diseases is also affected by a wide range of ecological, economic and social factors, such as land-use patterns and agricultural practices; biological diversity; the capacity of public health systems; travel, trade and migration; and human behaviours affecting individual risk factors. Thus, vulnerabilities to health systems and populations must also be accounted for alongside climatic changes when assessing future infectious disease risks.

Scientific references

  • IPCC, 2014c: 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.

Indicator definition

  • Current distribution of Ixodes ricinus ticks
  • Current distribution of Aedes albopictus
  • Climatic suitability for the mosquitos Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus
  • Current distribution of West Nile virus infections
  • Projected change in the climatic suitability for chikungunya transmission
  • Projected distribution of West Nile Virus infections

Units

  • Presence vs. absence of various vectors and infections (unitless)
  • Climatic suitability (%)

Policy context and targets

Context description

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.

Targets

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

What are the health effects of vector-borne diseases across Europe, and how are they changing?

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

The maps for the distribution of ticks and of the Aedes mosquitoes are the outcome of the collaborative work of VectorNet and are based on collecting existing data by the network members. VectorNet is a joint initiative of the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) that started in May 2014. The project supports the collection of data on vectors, related to both animal and human health.

Simulations are used for the climatic suitability for the mosquitos Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti in Europe.

The map for the current distribution of West Nile virus infections has been produced based on reported cases on the spatial resolution of NUTS-3 regions.

The risk for Chikungunya transmission in Europe has been estimated by combining temperature requirements of the Chikungunya virus with the climatic suitability of the vector Aedes albopictus. Projections for different time-frames are based on projections by the regional climate model COSMO-CLM for two emission scenarios (A1B, a medium scenario and B1, a low scenario). The "current situation" refers to the 1960-1990 baseline climate.

The West Nile virus risk in Europe has been projected into 2025 and 2050 based on July temperature projections under a medium emissions scenario (A1B), keeping other variables constant (e.g. state of vegetation, water bodies and bird migratory routes).

Methodology for gap filling

Not applicable

Methodology references

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

Not applicable

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).

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

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.

General metadata

Identification

Indicator code
CLIM 037
Specification
Version id: 2

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 4 years

Classification

DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

Related content

Data references used

Latest figures and vizualizations

Relevant policy documents

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