Germany to see rise in tropical diseases due to climate change, warns expert

With climate change causing temperatures to rise in Germany, the head of the Robert Koch Institute has warned that this will lead to an increase in the spread of tropical diseases.

A mosquito of the species Aedes vexans sucks blood.
A mosquito of the species Aedes vexans sucks blood. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

The president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Lothar Wieler, has said that he expects an increase in the spread of tropical diseases in Germany as a result of climate change.

He told the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe that climate change is leading to an expansion of the habitats of mosquitoes and ticks in Germany. “Many mosquito and tick species can transmit viral, bacterial and parasitic infectious agents,” he said.

The reproduction of viruses in mosquitoes is temperature-dependent, so with higher temperatures over longer periods of time, the probability of infections from mosquito bites increases.

READ ALSO: Ticks in Germany: How to avoid them and what to do if you get bitten

Wieler named Zika, dengue and the West Nile virus, as well as early summer meningoencephalitis (FSME) as examples of viruses that could soon be on the rise in Germany and said there was even a possibility that Malaria could appear in the country. 

Therefore, he said, it is crucial to raise awareness of such diseases in the medical profession in this country. “This is also an important concern for the RKI,” he said.

The FDP health politician and physician Andrew Ullmann also expects that, due to the climate-induced spread of tick and mosquito populations, diseases will increasingly appear in Europe and Germany “that were previously unknown in our climatic regions”.

READ ALSO: Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens ‘among new infections’

Ullmann called for a government response to the development. What is needed is “further research and innovation initiatives to better understand the effects of climate change on the spread of pathogens and to take effective measures,” he said.

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Germany down to four glaciers as climate change bites

Germany lost one of its few remaining glaciers this summer as exceedingly warm weather ate away Alpine ice at a faster pace than feared, a scientific report released on Monday showed.

Germany down to four glaciers as climate change bites

The Bavarian Academy of Sciences said the state’s Southern Schneeferner had lost its official status as a glacier due to rapid melting of its once sprawling ice sheet.

“The Schneeferner’s ice thickness shrank significantly in large swathes and in most places no longer measures even two metres (6.5 feet),” the academy said in its latest findings.

It said even the thickest spot was now diminished to less than six metres compared to around 10 metres in 2018. The surface area of the glacier halved during the same period to about one hectare.

READ ALSO: Why it’s a bad year for Germany’s Alpine glaciers 

“That leads us to conclude that the remaining ice will completely melt away in the next one to two years,” the academy said.

It said that the dramatic shrinkage meant that the periodic measurements carried out by the academy since 1892 would now be suspended.

The loss means Germany has only four remaining glaciers: Northern Schneeferner and Hoellentalferner on its highest mountain, the Zugspitze, and Blaueis and Watzmann in the Berchtesgaden Alps.

Rapid glacier melt in the Alps and elsewhere, which experts say is being driven by climate change, has been increasingly closely monitored since the early 2000s.

Bavaria’s environment ministry said last year in a bombshell report that Germany could lose its last glaciers within the decade as climate change gathered pace.

Scientists had previously estimated the glaciers would be around until the middle of the century.

A global study released in April 2021 found nearly all the world’s glaciers are losing mass at an ever-increasing pace, contributing to more than a fifth of global sea level rise this century.