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Killer mosquito lurks in Britain
by BEEZY MARSH, Daily Mail
A voracious mosquito which carries a host of deadly diseases is feared to have entered Britain.
The Asian tiger mosquito, which can transmit up to 23 infections - including West Nile virus and dengue fever - is believed to have stowed away in used tyres being shipped from the Far East to this country for retreading.
Illnesses passed on when the aggressive insect bites humans include a parasitic worm which attaches itself to one of the lung's arteries, causing serious breathing complications.
The mosquito lays its eggs in small amounts of water that collect in the bottom of tyres - which are then sent to Britain on container ships from Asia. Up to 12 million used tyres are imported from Asia every year.
Government health experts are now planning spot checks at ports and used-tyre import centres to look for the distinctive black and white striped insect.
Although there is no evidence as yet of disease transmission in Europe, doctors believe the current heatwave may have provided warm enough conditions for it to survive and possibly breed here for the first time.
The mosquito, from South East Asia, has gradually moved westwards through Albania, Italy, France and Belgium.
The Government's Health Protection Agency is convinced Britain will be its next target.
"We think it is very likely that it is already here,' an HPA spokesman said yesterday. "It is a voracious little beast that will bite anything. In terms of disease transmission, that makes it very dangerous."
The insect is particularly perilous because it bites throughout the day and not just in the
evening, as with other mosquito species. West Nile virus, which has killed hundreds of people in mainland Europe and North America, lives mainly in birds, but can be passed to humans when they are bitten by a mosquito which has already bitten an infected bird.
The disease, which first emerged in Uganda in 1937, can lead to fever and headache, but more severe cases involve inflammation of the brain, or deadly meningitis. The virus is especially dangerous to the young and those over 50. Dengue fever, which is most common in Africa, India and the Far East, can also prove fatal.
Symptoms include a sudden high fever, painful aches in the bones, joints and muscles and a rash which leaves the palms and soles of the feet bright red and swollen.
One form of dengue fever causes internal bleeding which can be lethal if not treated. The Asian tiger mosquito is also the carrier of a parasitic worm called diarofularia, which lodges in the pulmonary artery, causing severe breathing problems.
In the wild, the insect lays its eggs in banana leaves and coconut shells, which collect a little water. A used tyre provides a similar environment.
Even if water dries out in transit, the eggs can still hatch once it rains and they become moist again. It also lays its eggs in any suitable water container, such as flowerpots, buckets, or even drinks cans and bottle tops.
The alert follows the discovery in Scotland earlier this summer of another mosquito which is capable of transmitting West Nile virus.
There are more than 2,500 described species of mosquito.
They are responsible for more human death through diseases such as malaria than any other creature.
The Asian tiger mosquito, pictured, is so called because of its stripes.
In total, including its legs, the insect may measure up to one centimetre - a little larger than most mosquitoes.
Like all mosquitoes, only the female feeds on blood - to get vital protein for developing eggs.
It lays 100 to 300 eggs at a time and one female may average 1,000 to 3,000 offspring during its lifetime.
In 1985, the Asian tiger mosquito was found in used tyres in Texas. Two years later, it had spread to 17 states.
Just a quarter-inch of water is enough for it to lay eggs. In the U.S., it has even been found breeding in the fingerholes of ten-pin bowling balls.
Unlike other species, it cannot be eradicated by mass spraying or draining marshy breeding grounds.
Because it stays close to the ground, children playing are particularly at risk of being bitten. It also attacks cats, dogs and other mammals as well as birds.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-191379/Killer-mosquito-lurks-Britain.html#ixzz3fsLsCTls
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