Frédéric Simard, André Yébakima & Laurence Farraudière
Are mosquitoes new to Europe?
Mosquitoes are responsible for many diseases, including dengue fever, malaria, or even more recently chikungunya and Zika . Like the Overseas Territories, mainland France has suffered from their presence since the dawn of time, and its population paid them a tribute that we tend to forget.
The forgotten history of mosquitoes in Europe
Mosquitoes have always had a deplorable reputation in France and Europe. Nuisances or disease carriers, they were endemic to humid regions.
In the middle of the 18th century, much was said about the unsanitary conditions of marshy areas and stagnant water, but it was not until the end of the 19th century to understand that it was mosquitoes that transmitted the disease to humans through their bites. Since then, the drying up of the ponds has allowed the decline of malaria, and later its total disappearance.
In the sixties the inhabitants of Languedoc-Roussillon undertook to enhance their coastline to develop tourism. As a result, the Camargue mosquitoes have been eliminated as a rule along the entire coast. This done, nothing stood in the way of the creation of campsites and leisure activities. But in recent years, where a newcomer has started to talk about him, the mosquito-tiger.
New mosquitoes arrive in metropolitan France
The tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, entered southern France in 2004 via the Italian border. Its biology is completely different from that of the marsh mosquitoes of Languedoc-Roussillon, and it can carry viruses. This fact, it can be a vector of diseases such as dengue fever and chikungunya.
For once, global warming has nothing to do with it. It is the explosion of transcontinental and intercontinental trade that gives these species an opportunity to invade temperate regions.
The tiger mosquito has an additional advantage. Its eggs are able to withstand the cold and they can thus spend the winter without incident in temperate environments. It is therefore mainly thanks to the globalization of trade and its resistance to cold that the tiger mosquito is spreading in France.
It is a resistant mosquito, which hurts, which bites hard
The nuisance caused by the tiger mosquito is of great interest, as it can have important consequences. “It's a mosquito that hurts, that bites hard, that prevents people from enjoying their days and tourists from enjoying their vacations,” underlines Frédéric Simard. The societal impact of the report of the tiger mosquito in Europe was immediate. What had taken several years to build in the field of tourism could be endangered by its presence.
Zika, the consciousness awakener
The Zika epidemic marked the year 2016. Images of babies with microcephaly went around the world. They are the ones who allowed the beginning of awareness of the population in metropolitan France. “As often, there is nothing like a good epidemic to raise awareness. The consequences of zika are more "educational" than those of dengue fever, while dengue fever remains by far more dangerous", observes Frédéric Sime interview
From now on, the risk exists in mainland France
In 2016, there was no indigenous transmission of zika, that is to say contamination inside the territory. However, more than 600 people declared the disease in metropolitan France. As it takes about ten days between the bite and the first symptoms, it was only when they returned that they fell ill. In this case, early detection is impossible.
We now know that the danger of the tiger mosquito exists in mainland France and it is up to us to control it to prevent a large-scale epidemic from breaking out.