BRUSSELS: A large majority of European Union countries want stronger EU action to prepare for the health consequences of climate change and global warming's potential to spread vector-borne diseases, a document seen by Reuters showed.
Europe is experiencing severe health impacts as a result of the changing climate. Around 61,000 people are estimated to have died in sweltering European heatwaves last summer, suggesting countries' heat preparedness efforts are falling well short.
In a joint paper, 20 of the EU's 27 member countries including Croatia, Germany, Greece, Malta and the Netherlands, have urged the EU to increase its surveillance of the threats to health and healthcare systems posed by extreme weather, to help countries prepare.
The EU should also draft plans for infections of zoonotic and climate-sensitive vector-borne diseases, and strengthen its early warning and response system for if disease-spreading vectors are detected, the countries said.
"Unless proactive measures are taken, it is a matter of time before certain preventable infectious diseases, which are currently more prevalent in other regions, become increasingly common occurrences within the EU," the paper said.
It was also backed by Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania and Slovenia.
Climate change is increasing the risk that infectious diseases will spread into new areas - including in Europe, as summers become hotter and longer, and increased flooding creates favourable conditions for spreading infectious disease.
An example of this is the tiger mosquito, which is now present in 337 regions in Europe - more than double the number a decade ago, said the paper, which was reported earlier on Monday by the Financial Times.
EU countries' health ministers will discuss the paper in a meeting next week. The EU is currently drafting its first climate risk assessment, due to be published next year as a basis for future policies to cope with climate hazards like heatwaves and wildfires.