Climate change in relation to vector borne diseases – One Health PACT

Outbreaks of (new) infectious diseases in humans and animals are occurring more often and worldwide. That is linked to various factors, such as international trade and travelling, population growth and climate change. In the Netherlands, a relatively large number of people, livestock and animals live near each other. Combined with our water-rich landscape and busy international trade and travel, this makes us vulnerable to outbreaks of infectious diseases.

Focus on changes that influence the development of outbreaks

Deltares participates in a project of the One Health consortium, led by Erasmus MC. The team will  focus on vector-borne diseases: infectious diseases transmitted by insects such as mosquitoes. As a result of climate change, exotic mosquito species are settling in the Netherlands. But under the right conditions, mosquito species native to the Netherlands can transmit (tropical) viruses too. The recent outbreak of the usutu virus among blackbirds demonstrates the importance of early preparedness for such diseases. That applies not only to the Netherlands but also the Dutch Caribbean and the rest of Europe.

Vector-borne virus outbreaks in the Netherlands can arise due to a combination of factors. Over the next five years, 26 PhD researchers will focus on four scenarios that influence the development of outbreaks due to changes in;

  1. climate,
  2. water management,
  3. agricultural methods, and
  4. international travel and importation.

Combining sciences and methods is indispensable

In this project, partners of the Netherlands Centre for One Health collaborate with researchers from Deltares, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA), and the blood banks in the Netherlands and the Dutch Caribbean. Thus the outcomes will be translated into measures to ensure we are better prepared for a possible disease outbreak. At the same time, this allows for a combination of various scientific entities and apply research results from other projects. Citizen science projects will be included as well: initiatives in which citizens and high school pupils are involved. For example, they will provide research data about birds, mosquitoes and water or use travel apps such as the Municipal Health Services’ “GGD reist mee” and the “ZIeKA-monitor“.

Include health aspects in climate adaptation measures

Deltares develops sustainable solutions to deal with climate change, like expanding river flood plains and using natural water storage. But what are the implications of these measures for human health? In this comprehensive research, knowledge of all relevant disciplines is brought together. The outcome will help Deltares to include health aspects in the design of climate adaptation measures.