Protecting health and the environment from climate change: Early-warning systems for infectious diseases in Europe – a case study

Locations

  1. Greece
  2. Baltic Sea
  3. South-eastern Europe 

Reason for initiation

Climate change can be a significant driver of infectious diseases in Europe. Environmental and climatic drivers can be considered epidemic precursors of infectious diseases; thus, monitoring changes in these drivers can help professionals to anticipate, or even forecast, an upsurge in disease.

Strategies in place or planned

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) developed the European Environment and Epidemiology (E3) Network to help monitor drivers related to infectious disease threats. A large set of climatic, environmental and social data has been aggregated, processed and stored in the E3 Network repository and is accessible through the E3 geoportal. 

The data were applied to analysis of:

  1. the environmental suitability of malaria transmission in Greece;
  2. the environmental suitability of Vibrio blooms in the Baltic Sea;
  3. the environmental determinants of West Nile fever (WNF) in south-eastern Europe.

Outcomes and next steps

  1. Malaria had been eradicated from Greece in 1974, but in 2009–2012 local transmission occurred. E3 data were analysed to delineate the areas where future transmission could occur in order to target them for intervention. Transmission was subsequently interrupted in these areas in 2013.
  2. An E3 real-time tool assesses sea surface temperature and salinity in the Baltic Sea for environmental suitability of Vibrio blooms. The tool picked up a signal in 2014, which corresponded with an elevated number of vibriosis cases.
  3. ECDC developed a model for WNF using July temperature anomalies, water index and bird flight patterns; this can predict the occurrence of WNF cases in the autumn based on July temperatures in both the short (2015) and long (climate change) terms.

Organization(s) involved 

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)