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

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid