Vector-borne disease distributions and risks to the UK


In the recent decades, the geographic distribution of vector-borne diseases (VBDs) of dogs and cats has changed for intrinsic and extrinsic reasons. Therefore some infections/infestations, some of zoonotic concern, have been recorded in geographic areas where they were unexpected. In Europe, arthropods (e.g. ticks, fleas, mosquitoes and sand flies) and the pathogens that they transmit are in general considered to be more frequent in the Mediterranean Basin. Nonetheless, a possible occurrence in other regions should not be a priori excluded, given that travels of animals (to or imported from endemic areas), movements of goods and global warming all may foster the introduction of vectors and/or transmitted pathogens in previously free areas. This could also be the case in the UK, which, because of its territorial characteristics as an island area in north-western Europe, is traditionally considered at minor risk of VBDs. Given the growing increase of movements and travels of pets, and changes in the phenology of many arthropod vectors, it is crucial that veterinary practitioners are aware of and prepared to diagnose, treat and control a series of unexpected diseases.

Figure 1. Heavy infestation by Rhipicephalus sanguineus in a dog from a shelter in insular Greece (courtesy of Simone Morelli).
Figure 1. Heavy infestation by Rhipicephalus sanguineus in a dog from a shelter in insular Greece (courtesy of Simone Morelli).

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