News / Health

Warmer Temps Trigger More Disease

FILE - Undated file photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows egg masses of the hemlock woolly adelgid. Scientists say climate change is a contributing factor.
FILE - Undated file photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows egg masses of the hemlock woolly adelgid. Scientists say climate change is a contributing factor.

Multimedia

Audio
  • Listen to De Capua report on climate change and disease

Joe DeCapua
Climate change is often associated with extreme weather events, melting glaciers and rising sea levels. But it could also have a major impact on human, animal and plant health by making it easier for diseases to spread.


Various germs and parasites may find the coming years a time to live longer and prosper. Rising temperatures are changing environments and removing some of their natural impediments.

Sonia Altizer is an associate professor at the University of Georgia’s Odum School of Ecology and lead author of the study. She said it’s a review of research done over the past 10 years to see what trends and new information on climate change have emerged.

“One of the big themes that has emerged is that there’s a lot of diseases, especially in natural systems, where there as a pretty clear signal that either the prevalence or severity of those diseases has increased in response to climate change.”

She said some of those natural systems where the signal is strongest are in the arctic and in warmer oceans.

“So in the arctic there are parasitic worms that affect muskox and reindeer, for example, that are developing faster and becoming more prevalent and expanding their ranges. And then in tropical oceans, like Caribbean coral reefs, there’s a large amount of evidence that has mounted that shows that warming interferes with the symbiosis of corals – makes them more vulnerable to disease and at the same time increases the growth rate of some lethal bacteria,” she said.

But a second theme emerged indicating that sometimes climate change may have no effect at all.

“The other main point that we focused on is that knowing why different pathogens respond differently to climate change is what’s needed to help us predict and ultimately manage disease outbreaks in people and animals and plants,” she said.

Some countries will be much better prepared to handle the disease threat than others, like those in Europe and North America.
.
“Surveillance, vector control, modern sanitation, drugs, vaccines can be deployed to prevent outbreaks of a lot of diseases, especially vector borne disease or diarrheal disease that are much more problematic in the developing world. And so these can counter the effects of climate change and make it hard to detect increases in those pathogens,” said Altizer.

Controlling vectors means controlling such things as mosquitos and ticks, which can carry malaria or dengue fever.

In developing countries, pathogens affecting agriculture and wildlife could adversely affect food security and the livelihoods of indigenous peoples.

So how concerned should health officials be? Altizer said there’s no simple answer.

“I think that the answer to it really depends on the location. So where, when and what pathogen? So I think we’re at a stage now where in the next five to ten years scientists will be able to move towards a predictive framework that will be able to answer questions about where in the world and what pathogens are responding and will continue to respond most strongly to climate change.”

Altizer says the effects of climate change will unfold over decades. So it’s vital to follow long-term standardized data for many diseases and pathogens. She said crop management may be a good example to follow. It has a long history of tracking disease outbreaks, forecasting potential threats and responding to those threats early.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid