An Aedes aegypti mosquito

Study links 58% of infectious diseases to climate threats

Climate threats like floods, heat waves, and droughts have exacerbated more than half of the hundreds of infectious diseases that plague humans, including malaria, cholera, hantavirus, and even anthrax.

Climate threats such as floods, heat waves, and drought have exacerbated more than half of all infectious diseases that affect humans, including malaria, cholera, hantavirus, and even anthrax.

Researchers have found that 218 diseases (or 58% of 375 human infectious diseases) appear to be made worse by 1 in 10 problems associated with climate change, according to a study published Monday by Nature Climate Change.

The study mapped 1,006 pathways, from climate hazards to sick humans. In some cases, heavy rains and floods allow mosquitoes or rats to infect humans. Warmer oceans and heat waves can contaminate food. Heat waves can also bring virus-carrying bats.

The study maps 1,006 pathways, from climate hazards to sick humans. In some cases, heavy rains and floods allow mosquitoes or rats to infect humans.

Warmer oceans and heat waves can contaminate food. Heat waves can bring virus-carrying bats.

Obviously, this is not the first time that doctors have associated climate and health, but this study testifies to the extent of the impact of climate on human health.

In addition to looking at infectious diseases, the researchers looked at non-infectious problems like allergies, asthma, and even animal bites to see how many might be associated with weather hazards. They identified 286 health problems, 223 of which were exacerbated by climate threats; Another 9 shrank and 54 shrank and worsened, according to the study.

The new study doesn’t detail the association between health problems and climate change, but points to instances where extreme weather likely played a role.

Symptoms of a sick planet

If the climate changes, the risk of these diseases changessummarized one of the study’s co-authors, Dr. Jonathan Patz, director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Physicians like Dr. Patz say they need to see disease as symptoms of a sick planet.

The conclusions of this study are terrifying and illustrate the enormous consequences of climate change on human pathogens, reacted Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectologist at Emory University who was not involved in this study. Those of us who work in infectious diseases and microbiology must make climate change a priority and we must all work together to prevent what will undoubtedly be a catastrophe due to climate change.

The study’s lead author, Camilo Mora, who analyzes climate data at the University of Hawaii, stressed that the study does not predict the future.

There is no speculation at all. These are things that have happened before.

Camilo Mora, lead author of the study

About five years ago, floods engulfed Mr. Mora’s house in the Colombian countryside for the first time in his memory. Then a mosquito transmitted the chikungunya virus to him, so he still has pain in his joints several years later.

An Aedes aegypti mosquito

The Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits Zika, as well as dengue and chikungunya. Photo: Associated Press/James Gathany

Closer contact with animals.

Mora also cites as an example an anthrax outbreak in Siberia in 2016 when melting permafrost exposed the carcass of a reindeer that had succumbed to the disease. All it took was one child to touch it for the disease to start spreading.

In the case of COVID-19, Mora and colleagues have found that a heat wave can exacerbate the problem (when people gather where you can cool off), but downpours can stop it (by forcing people to stay home ).

While some experts have raised questions about the study authors’ conclusions and methodology, others, such as Dr. Aaron Bernstein, acting director of the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment from the Harvard University School of Public Health, believe this is a good warning about climate and health, especially at a time when global warming and habitat loss are bringing animals (and their diseases) to humans. said Dr. Bernstein.

This study shows that climate change could have some very nasty infectious surprises in store for us, he said by email. But of course, this is only about what we already know, and what we don’t yet know about pathogens may well further highlight the importance of fighting climate change to prevent future disasters like COVID-19.

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