Intended for healthcare professionals


Chikungunya in Italy

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 20 September 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:576
  1. Jo Lines, reader in vector biology and malaria control
  1. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  1. jo.lines{at}

Globalisation is to blame, not climate change

An epidemic of chikungunya virus has recently occurred in Italy, involving more than 190 cases.1 The concern is that climate change will bring mosquito borne tropical diseases to Northern Europe, but is this outbreak really the result of global warming? Although such an epidemic is new in Europe, it is probably caused by globalisation rather than climate change. Increased amounts of long distance tourism, travel, and trade mean that organisms that live in and on people or goods have more opportunity to be transported across continents.

Chikungunya is an epidemic disease with many similarities to dengue—it causes fever that lasts four to seven days, sometimes with a rash. It is often accompanied by intense arthralgia.2 Most infections cause noticeable disease, but haemorrhagic symptoms and other life threatening manifestations are rare.

The virus can be carried by several species of mosquito, but the vector in Italy and in recent epidemics elsewhere is Aedes albopictus. Its common names are Asian tiger in English and zanzara tigre in Italian. Its biology is similar to that of its cousin, Ae aegypti. Both evolved to breed in …

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