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Last Updated: Friday, 17 August 2007, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
Mosquitoes thrive in wet summer
Image of a mosquito
Mosquitoes spread diseases such as malaria
Britons may not have enjoyed the rain this summer but mosquitoes seem to be thriving in the wet, muggy conditions.

NHS Direct has reported a 28% rise in England in the number of people seeking telephone advice about mosquito bites.

The website has also seen a surge in visitors, with an article on insect bites being the most popular out of 700 different topics, NHS Direct said.

Unusually high rainfall and hot weather has created an ideal environment for mosquitoes to thrive.

When an insect bites it releases a form of saliva that can that give rise to inflammation, blisters, and irritation
Helen Young, NHS Direct

Although several species of mosquito live in Britain, they are normally more of a problem in the warmer climate of mainland Europe.

The World Health Organization estimate that mosquitoes carrying malaria infect about 400 million people a year but it was eradicated in Britain decades ago.

Advice

Figures collected by NHS Direct show the helpline received 1,491 calls about mosquito bites in the first 12 days of August compared with 1,157 over the same period in 2006.

In July, more than 2,000 people called to ask for advice.

The website received 17,434 inquiries in July and August, up from 12,316 last year.

Helen Young, clinical director and director of nursing at NHS Direct, said most insect bites could be easily treated as they only produced small, local reactions.

"When an insect bites it releases a form of saliva that can that give rise to inflammation, blisters, and irritation.

TREATING THE ITCH
Use a cold compress, such as a cold flannel or ice pack, to ease pain and swelling
Steroid creams, such as hydrocortisone, or antihistamines in cream or tablets can also ease itchiness and inflammation

"These can vary depending on the type of insect involved, and the sensitivity of the person who is bitten.

"If your bites and the local reactions do not fade away within a few days or your bites get infected or if you have severe symptoms, such as swelling and blistering, you may need to see your doctor."

She added that people who had a severe allergic reaction to a bite, for example if they have breathing difficulties or their blood pressure drops they should call 999 straight away.

For a person to catch malaria from a mosquito bite in the UK, the mosquito would had to have bitten one of the 2,000 people who return to the country every year after contracting malaria abroad.

Paul Pearce-Kelly, senior curator of invertebrates at the Zoological Society London, said: "It's the combination of wet weather followed by warmer conditions that encourages the greater numbers, which we're already seeing.

"Changing weather patterns are creating conditions more favourable to mosquito breeding.

"A combination of climate change, bringing milder winters, and increased travel - not just for humans but cargo too - is producing an environment in which mosquitoes succeed."


SEE ALSO
Mosquito buzzers' worth queried
06 Sep 05 |  Health
Chemical key to mosquito biting
15 Jan 04 |  Science/Nature

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