Dangerous Mosquitoes in Europe

Dangerous Mosquitoes in Europe: Species, Risks and Protection

Find out which are the more dangerous mosquitoes in Europe and learn how to protect yourself effectively. From the Asian tiger mosquito to West Nile virus, we discuss the risks and preventive measures.

Dangerous types of mosquitoes in Europe

Below is a list of the mosquito species that we need to be wary about.

  • Aedes albopictus (Asian Tiger Mosquito): Known for transmitting dengue fever, chikungunya, and Zika virus. It’s an invasive species that has spread to many parts of Europe.
  • Culex pipiens (Northern House Mosquito): A vector for West Nile virus and potentially other diseases like Usutu virus.
  • Aedes aegypti: Though less common in Europe, this species is a well-known vector for yellow fever, dengue, Zika, and chikungunya. It’s mostly found in the warmer regions of Europe.
  • Anopheles maculipennis complex: This group of species can potentially transmit malaria. While malaria is not a significant issue in Europe currently, these mosquitoes are historically known for their role in malaria transmission.
  • Anopheles claviger: A potential vector for malaria, though less significant than Anopheles maculipennis.

These mosquitoes are considered dangerous mainly because of their ability to transmit various diseases. The risk of disease transmission can vary based on factors like the presence of the disease in the local area, climate conditions, and the density of the mosquito population.

A growing diversity of mosquito species

But times are changing. With increasing international travel and globalisation, we are now struggling with new species of exotic mosquitoes. We therefore focus in this blog not on one country, but on the overall situation in Europe.

These mosquitoes, relatively unknown a decade ago, can now be found in Europe. Recent reports from Spain, Italy, Switzerland and southern Germany warn of the rise of the Asian tiger mosquito, among others, a worrying development that demands our attention.

Tiger mosquito in Europe

tiger mosquito in europe

source: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/

The rise of exotic mosquitoes in Europe

Exotic mosquitoes often reach Europe via international transport, where they adapt to our climate and become invasive species. Take, for example, the Asian forest mosquito, which hitchhikes with international goods, or the more dangerous Tiger mosquito, known for transmitting diseases such as dengue and zika fever.

The impact of climate change plays a crucial role in this development. As discussed by 13,500 doctors from 127 countries at a European congress on infectious diseases. Our weather is becoming more attractive to mosquitoes as we have increasingly longer warm spells and milder winters in the Mediterranean. This has led to an increase in diseases such as dengue and encephalitis, as observed in Madeira in 2012 and Greece, which reported a malaria case in the same year.

Another worrying development is the spread of West Nile virus throughout Europe. This virus, transmitted mainly by common mosquitoes, causes symptoms such as fever and headache in 20% of those infected, and in severe cases can lead to encephalitis or meningitis with a significant risk of death.

west nile cases in Europe 2020

Source: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/

Increasing risk with international trade and climate change

Globalization and climate change are facilitating the spread of exotic mosquitoes in Europe. Interestingly, international trade, such as that of car tyres, plays a major role in the transport of these insects. Specific species like the yellow fever mosquito have already established themselves in places like Madeira and in north-eastern Turkey, where they cause various health problems.

Even the common mosquito, well-known and ubiquitous, can now transmit serious diseases such as West Nile virus. This calls for a thoughtful approach and awareness of risks, especially in areas where climate variability is decreasing and urban areas are becoming more densely populated with mosquitoes.

Climate change increases the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, not only in tropical areas but also in Europe. Besides the well-known malaria mosquito, which has been a threat for centuries, the Asian tiger mosquito is now on the rise in Europe. This mosquito, which stings during the day, spreads dengue and potentially zika virus. Protection with covering clothes and mosquito nets is essential, especially for travellers to areas where these mosquitoes are active.

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Health risks from mosquito bites

People are infected by mosquitoes that feed on infected birds, spreading diseases such as West Nile Fever. Although most cases are mild, the virus can cause serious conditions such as encephalitis, especially in the elderly. Recent outbreaks in Andalusia, where four people died from West Nile fever, show the growing risk in Europe. Local authorities respond by spraying areas with pesticide and they advise the use of mosquito nets and mosquito nets.

Especially travellers to Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam or the Philippines should be vigilant for the tiger mosquito. Its spread is very rapid in the rainy season. Since 2011, dengue has been very active again and the Philippines has declared it an epidemic. The increase in the number of patients also caused a shortage of blood, which is needed to treat this disease, in some countries.

Even the most “ordinary” mosquito, with which we started this story, can become the carrier of the West Nile virus throughout Europe due to climate change. Or the more exceptional cases: an Australian traveller who lost his memory after a mosquito bite in Bali.

There are no vaccinations or medicines against the dengue virus, also known as dengue fever. So it is also very important that you always protect yourself well with covering clothes and a mosquito net. In addition, you can use mosquito repellents such as Deet.

malaria transmission cycle

source: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and research (https://www.mayoclinic.org/)

Mosquito prevention and protection

To protect yourself from mosquitoes, we have collected some tips:

  • Wear clothes that cover as much of your body as possible, i.e. a long-sleeved shirt and long trousers with socks. It also helps to wear light-coloured clothes. 
  • Use Deet. Deet is a liquid with a strong odour that repels insects, ensuring that mosquitoes stay at bay. So you can stay protected from ticks and mosquitoes for an average of 10 hours with Deet at a 50% concentration.
  • Stay indoors during the peak hours when mosquitoes sting, during sunrise and sunset.
  • Make sure you don’t have standing water around you, so empty buckets after a rainy day, for example.
  • The better you smell the less mosquitoes sting! So avoid alcohol and shower every day!
  • Keep mosquitoes out by leaving your windows closed and use a mosquito net over your bed.

source: https://www.onemedical.com/

Want to know more about how often mosquitoes sting and how best to protect yourself? Then check out our other blog: How often does a mosquito bite? What you need to know about mosquito bites

What to do against all these mosquitoes?

The predictions are that in the coming years there will be less and fewer climate differences between tropical and originally non-tropical areas. The difference between city and countryside is also changing. Larger concentrations of mosquitoes can also be found in the cities. They are also becoming increasingly resistant to all our repellent products.

Scientists argue that in the near future, government agencies should do more to map mosquito habitats and warn of the dangers. They are working on setting up a warning system and combing data about the occurrence of diseases with data about climate and socio-economic data. In this way, they hope to be able to anticipate the risks of outbreaks better.

It is interesting to realize that something as small as a mosquito can symbolize such significant issues in our world. Should we travel less? Shouldn’t we be more aware of global warming? Shouldn’t we already arm ourselves preventively instead of waiting for the damage to be done?

There is, of course, no single answer to these questions. Perhaps we can only say, let’s try to use our common sense together and protect ourselves and our loved ones as best we can at all times.

Stay safe!