Living on the edge of wetlands on the Italian island of Sardinia, Anna Rita Cocco is mourning the loss of her elderly father who died in a coma within weeks of a fatal mosquito bite.
“My father was full of life and used to walk for miles each day. I was expecting him to die at some point, but not suffering like that, taken from me by a mosquito,” she said her late father, Bernardino, who died aged 80.
Italy was only declared malaria-free by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1970, but now other lesser-known mosquito- or tick-borne diseases are on the rise.
A complex mix of global warming, changes in land use and more movement of people and goods are contributing to the spread of illnesses - such as dengue or Lyme disease - to new regions in a worsening trend, the UN panel of scientists says.
Migratory birds infected by mosquitoes and flying over 2,000 miles (3,200 km) from Senegal in west Africa have been identified as carriers of the West Nile virus that killed Cocco’s father in Sardinia, where summers are becoming hotter.
The Mediterranean island, and northern areas of Italy where the virus is also spreading, are both suffering more extreme events of floods and droughts.
Abundant water helps mosquitoes to breed, while more drought and fewer trees constrict the migratory birds’ ecosystems, forcing them into closer contact with each other, enabling some diseases to spread.
“People don’t seem to be aware of the threat,” said Cocco.
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