A line in a scientific report about what climate change might mean to the UK, which caused a lot of trouble for this reporter 25 years ago, suggested that warmer summer weather would create conditions for malaria to return to the south and east of England.
The front-page story said that conditions in the UK for Anopheles atroparvus, the indigenous mosquito most likely to carry malaria, were improving so much that the disease could return in about 2020. Critics considered it alarmist.
Since malaria, referred to as the ague, was common enough in the UK to be mentioned nine times in Shakespeare’s plays, it did not seem too far-fetched a claim but it caused a lot of debate.
The argument seemed to be that while conditions for mosquitoes were improving, and they are thriving in the UK’s current climate, it would need the misfortune of a human already infected with malaria to be bitten in order to transmit the disease to the insects.
The infected insect would then have to bite another human to spread the disease locally. Since more than a million UK citizens currently go to malaria-infested countries each year and round 1,500 return with the disease it seems we have been lucky so far.