Highland cow

A pathogen on the march

Climate change is affecting which diseases strike where

Late in 2006 more than 2,000 cases of bluetongue virus infection were seen in northern Europe – a region previously free of the virus. The disease, which kills around 30 per cent of the animals it infects, is transmitted by a species of midge that thrives in warm, wet areas.

Hot summers seem to have moved the midge’s habitat northwards, with the virus spreading with it. The spread of bluetongue illustrates how climate change could have a big impact on animal and human health.

Lead image:

Highland cow.

Damien du Toit/Flickr CC BY NC


Further reading

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Epidemics’ in September 2007 and reviewed and updated in January 2015.

Ecology and environment, Health, infection and disease
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development