Infectious Disease Rise Linked to Climate Change; “We’re Not Winning the War,” Expert Says

The appearance of infectious diseases in new places and in new hosts, such as West Nile virus and Ebola, is a predictable result of climate change, says a noted zoologist affiliated with the Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In an article published online on February 15, 2015, in conjunction with a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Dr. Daniel Brooks warns that humans can expect more such illnesses to emerge in the future, as climate change shifts habitats and brings wildlife, crops, livestock, and humans into contact with pathogens to which they are susceptible, but to which they have never been exposed before. "It's not that there's going to be one 'Andromeda Strain' that will wipe everybody out on the planet," Dr. Brooks said, referring to the 1971 science fiction film about a deadly pathogen. "There are going to be a lot of localized outbreaks putting pressure on medical and veterinary health systems. It will be the death of a thousand cuts." Dr. Brooks and his co-author, Dr. Eric Hoberg, a zoologist with the U.S. National Parasite Collection of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, have personally observed how climate change has affected very different ecosystems. During his career, Dr. Brooks has focused primarily on parasites in the tropics, while Dr. Hoberg has worked primarily in Arctic regions. Each has observed the arrival of species that hadn't previously lived in that area and the departure of others, Dr. Brooks said. "Over the last 30 years, the places we've been working have been heavily impacted by climate change," Dr. Brooks said in an interview last week.
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