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Climate Change: Diseases

Volume 481: debated on Monday 20 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the increase in mean surface temperatures on the potential for (a) malaria, (b) equine fever, (c) dengue fever, (d) lyme disease, (e) African Horse Sickness, (f) Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever virus, (g) Rift Valley fever and (h) other vector borne diseases to spread to the UK; and what steps he has taken towards securing vaccines for these diseases. (227327)

DEFRA has an ongoing programme of international disease surveillance that monitors disease outbreaks. Risk assessments for African Horse Sickness and Rift Valley Fever have been published on the DEFRA Website. Equine fever could refer to a number of diseases of the horse, so we are unable to say whether we have performed a risk assessment for it.

DEFRA has not conducted specific assessments of the potential increase of the risk of these diseases as a result of an increase in mean surface temperatures. Surface temperatures are only one factor affecting the potential spread of disease and/or vectors. A number of natural and human-related factors, such as trade, animal movements and livestock husbandry practices may have a more significant role in disease spread in the short-term. Some research is under way to investigate potential implications of climate change for animal diseases.

No steps have been taken to secure vaccines against these diseases. Vaccines are often specific for particular types and strains, and decisions on vaccine procurement would need to be taken on the basis of risk assessments and our agreed control strategy for each disease.

Malaria, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever virus, Dengue fever and Lyme disease are human health issues and therefore queries should be addressed to the Department of Health.