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Archive for the ‘Climate change’ Category

By Samantha Calderazzo

It’s hard to think of climate change as having drastic consequences when they are happening so far away and that’s the problem with the modern world. It’s easy to brush aside something that isn’t affecting one’s own life and make the connection to a long drawn out process, but this denial has procrastinated for so long it may be too late to stop the issues and time to deal with them face on.

As the Earth warms and climates become more humid the risk for infectious disease climbs. Outbreaks such as the current Zika epidemic will continue to spread like wild fire thanks to the mosquito favoring conditions. Since 1998 rates of mostly abolished diseases in the US have begun to see a rise in cases, such as the Dengue fever outbreak in Florida in 2009, which was the first it saw in 40 years. Further, the ZIka virus is proving to be one of the fastest spreading outbreaks amounting to 4 million cases in 8 months and currently active in 23 countries. Yet, it’s not even the first of its kind, there has been an unsettling trend of mosquito-borne illnesses spreading into new and unexpected regions. For example, the chikungunya virus made its first appearance in the Western Hemisphere in 2013 and in Florida in 2015.

Mosquitos thrive in hot humid areas so as climate change warms the Earth, disease seasons last longer and mosquitos can now travel farther than anticipated, as can be seen with worldwide statistics, most nonindigenous species of mosquitos were introduced to regions in the last 20 years. Heavy rain in particular is a huge risk factor since humidity and standing water attracts the vector. The first case of Zika arose in Brazil shortly after a drought which ironically appealed to mosquito vectors due to standing storage of water. But, warm temperatures and humidity throughout the continent nurtured its spread as Latin America has seen world record temperatures this past year. Moreover, these circumstances further thrive viruses allowing more opportunities for evolution and pick up by the increasing number of mosquitos. Dealing with global disease will no longer be the same since epidemics will flourish and spread more quickly and farther due to vector welcoming climates and increased capability of adaptation. So while trying to create better lives we’ve risked the health of everyone on the planet and whether or not we slow industrial pollution we’ve already set things in motion.

So what are the consequences?

Evolving viruses can become immune to treatments and more aggressive in their symptoms pushing for faster and more efficient upgrades in drug research. Mosquitos will hang around for longer periods and warmer temperatures will encourage people to be outside with exposed skin. People resistant to accepting vaccines will increase the risk of an entire population having an outbreak of something that may seem a problem of the past.

Although, if temperatures continue to rise some areas will exceed the limits of vector habitats and may be eliminated of some disease issues, while those who typically don’t worry will need to prepare for the possibility of high disease rates. But, vector diseases are not the only concern. The CDC states “In the U.S., public health can be affected by disruptions of physical, biological, and ecological systems, including disturbances originating here and elsewhere”. A myriad of effects include an increase in the world wide prevalence of water borne diseases, bacterial infections, allergens, air pollution, and even mental illnesses from changes in temperature and weather patterns.

It is no coincidence that Zika has arisen from the ashes of climate change and it’s time to admit this is a global health problem because the localized penalties, that have made it so easy to hide, will not remain local in the matter of disease with the expansion of vector environments and lengthening of disease time courses. This should be a wakeup call.

References

Belluz, Julia, Matt Moore, and Javier Zarracina. “Zika Virus, Explained in 6 Charts and Maps.” Vox Science and Health. January 28, 2016. Accessed February 24, 2016.

Bonizzoni, Mariangela. “The Invasive Mosquito Species Aedes Albopictus: Current Knowledge and Future Perspectives.” Trends in Parisitology 29, no. 9 (September 2013): 460-68. Accessed February 24, 2016. Cell.

“Climate Effect on Health.” CDC. October 2, 2015. Accessed February 24, 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/effects/.

“Infectious Diseases: Dengue Fever, West Nile Virus, and Lyme Disease.” Natural Resources Defense Council. 2009. Accessed February 24, 2016. http://www.nrdc.org/health/climate/disease.asp.

Kahn, Brian. “What You Need to Know About Zika And Climate Change.” Climate Central. January 28, 2016. Accessed February 24, 2016.

Worland, Justin. “How Climate Change Could Spread Diseases Like Zika.” TIME, January 2016.

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By Emily Klotz

“The answer of course is…drumroll…no.”1 In response to the question of whether we should adapt to climate change, Andrew Revkin, writer of the “Dot Earth” blog in The New York Times, gives the preceding answer. I understood his sarcastic response to imply two things: one, that rather than adapting to climate change we should be trying to mitigate and prevent climate change, and two, the issue of adapting lifestyles in response to climate change is not an imminent issue. He is absolutely right (mitigation and prevention should trump adaptation), but here is where the problem lies: who is “we”? I initially thought “we” referred to humans in general. However, in this video about adapting to climate change, Mr. Revkin, climate scientist Alex Hall, and environmental historian Jon Christensen fail to include all of humanity in their “we,” and focus primarily on the people living in developed countries, such as the United States. What about the majority of the world’s population that lives in developing nations? (more…)

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A new mosquito has been discovered in Kenya which has very different behavior from “the usual” – which may

mosquitomean that current control measures need to be reconsidered and new measures instituted.  It’s not very often that a new species is discovered, and even rare to find a species which has the potential to cause mayhem for control of the most deadly disease in Africa….

Cross-posted from SciDev.net – with many thanks!

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Most people lead their lives hoping to leave behind a legacy, hoping to imprint their footprints in the annals of history. Yet, few realize that their footprint impressions are actually propagating the legacy of a tropical disease that the World Health Organization deems only second in lethality (after malaria), dengue fever.1 Spread to humans via the bites of infected female mosquitos of the species Aedes aegypti, dengue fever is prominently found near pools of water (such as the watery imprint of a footstep), where mosquitos like to breed, in south Asian and Latin American countries.2 With the lack of an internationally approved vaccine for dengue fever, research and public health officials are scurrying to find appropriate vaccination options and contain the vectors that cause it. (more…)

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Sometimes the best intentions are not enough – things can go disastrously wrong, even when meant well. The return of DDT for malaria control seems to most of the public health world like a good idea (including me, I think – my own personal jury is still partly “out” on this one).  Deaths from malaria are just too high to pass up the possibility of reducing them through careful use of DDT.  But there are negative consequences, and not the ones you’d think of right off the top of your head. (more…)

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The Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper reports that the World Bank has issued a very worrisome report about global food prices:

The World Bank is warning that global food prices have hit dangerous levels, particularly in poor countries where the prices of many key staples have jumped by more than 50 per cent in six months.

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Unless you have been living under a rock for the past several decades, you are well aware that there is widespread consensus that the Earth is warming at an unprecedented rate due to numerous anthropogenic causes. Added pressures on the climate system are already causing visible impact on the Earth’s surface. These effects can be attributed to a combination of rising global temperatures, increasingly frequent floods and droughts, and changes in ecosystems, such as longer growing seasons for plants. For many people, this may not be sufficient reason to help combat increasing global temperatures; however, all of these changes are inextricably linked to the health of human societies. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “climatic conditions affect human well-being both directly, through the physical effects of climatic extremes, and indirectly, through influences on the levels of pollution in the air, on the agricultural, marine and freshwater systems that provide food and water, and on the vectors and pathogens that cause infectious diseases.”

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