Health minister fears Asian tiger mosquito

Belgian Health Minister Maggie De Block (Flemish liberals) and several experts fear that the Aedes Albopictur, or Asian tiger mosquito, will be settling here in Belgium. This is reported by newspapers De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad. The mosquito, which spreads the Dengue fever and yellow fever, is normally not found around here. But since 2013, the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp is regularly finding the insect in cargo that enters the country through harbours or airports.

The mosquito is found in shipments of exotic plants from America or Asia, and in loads of old tyres of tractors or airplanes that still contain traces of water. Between 2013 and 2014, four tiger mosquitos and 39 larvae were found in 'Lucky Bamboo' plants, and in tyre processing concerns at the Antwerp harbour area and in the province of West Flanders. They were found by a squad that was specifically tracing insects that come along with cargo from Asia, reported Isra Deblauwe, who is a biologist at the Antwerp Tropical Institute.

Experts assume that the tiger mosquito will settle here and will be able to infect us in the long haul. It is probably too late to stop this, but good monitoring might slow down the process, says Minister De Block after a parliamentary question.

The Antwerp Tropical Institute is keeping an eye on the bug. “Right now, it seems like the mosquitos are unable to survive the colder temperatures of our winters, but the Asian tiger mosquito is putting great pressure on Europe. We’re very worried about this”, explains Maxime Madder, supervising Professor of Veterinary Entomology at the Tropical Institute. The more general culprit is climate change. Warmer temperatures are allowing the Asian tiger mosquito to reside and thrive here.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is also warning people about the dangers of the Aedes Albopictur. Apart from Dengue and yellow fever, it can also infect humans with the West Nile virus, and 20 other dangerous, and potentially even lethal viruses.