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We’re Underestimating How Many Diseases Are Sensitive to Climate Change

Ari Phillips - Project Earth
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August 9, 2017
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Climate change and infectious diseases (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health)

The fear of climate change-driven, super-powered infectious diseases is real. As the recent viral New York magazine story on climate change doomsday scenarios articulated:

There are now, trapped in Arctic ice, diseases that have not circulated in the air for millions of years — in some cases, since before humans were around to encounter them. Which means our immune systems would have no idea how to fight back when those prehistoric plagues emerge from the ice.

Prehistoric plagues are worrisome enough, but what about your present day infectious diseases? What about Zika and Malaria? The prognosis is also grim: For every degree of temperature increase mosquitoes reproduce ten times faster. According to the World Bank, by mid-century around half the world’s population could be exposed to Malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

Scientists have caught on to these risks and are now studying how exactly a warmer planet will give rise to more infectious diseases. Now, the first large-scale assessment of the effects has found that the impact of climate change on the emergence and spread of infectious diseases could be even greater than previously thought. Published in Scientific Reports, the assessment looked at how climate affects bacterium, viruses or other microorganisms and parasites that can cause disease in humans or animals.

... According to the release, diseases spread by insects and ticks were found to be the most climate sensitive, followed by those transmitted in soil, water and food. Furthermore, pathogens that spread from animals to humans — known as zoonotic pathogens — were found to be more climate sensitive than those that affect only human or animals. Some three-fourths of emerging diseases are zoonotic, and thus may be more likely to be impacted by climate change.

“We found that emerging pathogens were more likely than those non-emerging to be associated with rain or climate change,” Dr. Marie McIntyre, who led the project at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, told Project Earth.

Read the rest at Project Earth

Related: Earth to Warm 2 Degrees By the End of This Century, Studies Say (CNN)

Related: 5 Major Takeaways from the Leaked Climate Change Report (AccuWeather.com)

Related: Scientists Fear Trump Will Dismiss Blunt Climate Report (The New York Times)


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