New Studies Warn of Climate Change-Induced Epidemics

In recent weeks, two studies on the spread of infectious diseases have been published — highlighting the dangers of climate change.

The first study describes a newly designed trap that allows researchers to better detect the presence of infectious diseases carried by mosquitoes. Mosquito traps typically have been used to obtain counts — the density of the mosquito population, the rates of change, etc. And before this new trap, researchers had to measure the presence of infectious diseases using other means.

The second study describes scientific efforts to track the epidemiological dynamics — that is, the path by which a disease spreads — for eastern equine encephalitis virus, or EEEV, in Florida. It turns out that besides having multiple hosts — including horses (hence the name), chickens and humans — this disease is also carried from one individual to another by mosquitoes. And it has a high mortality rate. If you watch medical dramas, you may already know infections with the word “encephalitis” in the name are very dangerous.

Unfortunately — as is true with science related to improving food security — research like this is only going to become more important over time. It’s not just globalization, travel and the increased accessibility of goods from all around the world that spread infectious diseases. It’s also climate change (regardless of whether the Trump administration wants people saying the words).

Regions that did not previously qualify as tropical are joining the club. And the lifeforms that readily adapt to these changes — including insects, parasites and fungi — are the sorts of things we want less of rather than more. Case in point: Mosquitoes are a major disease vector. And they are capable of changing their breeding patterns and conquering new territory when climate change opens up avenues to do so.

There are also indirect effects. When climate change leads to heavier rains in regions that aren’t used to it, there is more standing water and not enough infrastructure to deal with it

All things considered, we can predict the spread of infectious diseases will get worse. But one thing we can’t do very well is predict which diseases will explode where and at what time. If you live in the United States, you may think exotic-sounding diseases, such as Ebola, are problems people in faraway countries have to deal with. But that may not be true a few decades — or even a few years — from now.

Epidemiology — including agricultural research, genetic research on endangered or extinct animals, marine biology and the study of waterways (as well as virtually everything else to do with the biological world) — is now a climate mitigation and adaptation science. Eventually, even the most anti-science politicians will be clamoring to fund this work. And let’s hope by the time that happens it won’t be too late for it to be useful.

Photo credit: Getty Images

48 comments

Melisa B
Melisa Byesterday

thanks for posting this

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darcia hurst
darcia hurst2 days ago

All hands in deck we need less talk and a lot more action!!!!

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Leanne K
Leanne K3 days ago

I continue to see the most horrendous amounts of litter everywhere and no one is picking it up. Soooo, people act concerned but are not. If you think this and decades of campaigns have gotten the message across, you're right. Everyone knows. But knowing makes no difference

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Peggy B
Peggy B5 days ago

TYFS

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Dan B
Dan Blossfeld5 days ago

Beryl L.,
This is not the first time. Also, if we were to readily dismiss past history, then we can make no assumptions about the future, and all this is for naught.

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Beryl L
Beryl Ludwig5 days ago

Very educational story thank you very much for posting

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Beryl L
Beryl Ludwig5 days ago

Dan Blossfeld you have no idea what you are talking about. How can history teach you anything when this is the first time that climate change has happened to such a degree that it will cause an increase in epidemics.

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Nena C
Nena C5 days ago

CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL no matter who or what its blamed on period! nay sayers better get head's up now and fix it or Mama Earth will eventually in her own way!

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Renata B
Renata B5 days ago

Mother Earth is very patient and very wise, but when she really has enough and we pass the limit, then her punishment will not go unnoticed.

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Janis K
Janis K5 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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