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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs