Scientist ‘Scared’ to See Evidence That Climate Change Worsens Infectious Diseases

Members of the National Disaster Response Force wear shields as they respond to flooding amid the spread of coronavirus in India
Members of the National Disaster Response Force respond to flooding due to super cyclone Yaas amid the spread of coronavirus in Kolkata, West Bengal, India in 2021. Sudipta Das / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images
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Climate change is already worsening the impact of infectious diseases, like Zika, malaria, and COVID-19, on human health, a study published Monday in Nature Climate Change finds.

“There is no speculation here whatsoever,” Camilo Mora, a geographer at the University of Hawaii who headed the research, told the AP. “These are things that have already happened.”

Of the 375 known human infectious diseases, researchers found 218 (58%) are exacerbated by at least one of 10 types of climate-linked extreme weather. For example, extreme heat fuels the spread of COVID-19 by forcing people in low-income communities to congregate in air-conditioned rooms, expands regions vulnerable to malaria, and even exposes humans to anthrax, like when a Siberian child touched a reindeer carcass exposed by permafrost melt and started an outbreak in 2016.

“I have to tell you,” Mora told HuffPost, “as this database started to grow, I started to get scared, man.”

As reported by the AP:

“The findings of this study are terrifying and illustrate well the enormous consequences of climate change on human pathogens,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an Emory University infectious disease specialist, who was not part of the study. “Those of us in infectious diseases and microbiology need to make climate change one of our priorities, and we need to all work together to prevent what will be without doubt a catastrophe as a result of climate change.”

For a deeper dive:

AP, HuffPost, The Guardian, CBS, Grist, NBC, PBS, ABC, The Conversation, Camilo Mora, Hanna Hammerstein, Tristan McKenzie commentary.

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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