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Study links climate disasters to 58% of infectious diseases

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Climate hazards such as floods, heatwaves and droughts have exacerbated more than half of the hundreds of known epidemics, including malaria, hantavirus, cholera and anthrax, the study says.

Researchers examined the medical literature for cases of established diseases and found that 218 of the 375 known human infections, or 58%, were exacerbated by one of 10 extreme weather events linked to climate change. A study found that it appears to be It was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The study identified 1,006 pathways from climate hazards to sick people. In some cases, downpours and floods make people sick from disease-carrying mosquitoes, rats and deer. Warming oceans and heat waves contaminate seafood and other foods, and there are droughts when bats bring viral infections to humans.

Physicians have long linked disease to the weather, dating back to Hippocrates, but this study shows just how far-reaching the effects of climate can be on humans. health.

“As the climate changes, so does the risk of these diseases,” said study co-author Jonathan Patz, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Physicians such as Patz say the disease should be viewed as a planetary manifestation of disease.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University who was not involved in the study, said: “For those of us in infectious diseases and microbiology, we need to make climate change one of our priorities, and we all need to work together to prevent climate change from becoming an undeniable catastrophe. ”

In addition to infectious diseases, the researchers extended their investigation to all kinds of human diseases, including asthma, allergies and even non-communicable diseases such as animal bites, which could be linked in some way to climate disasters. We examined the number of diseases with , including infections. They found a total of 286 unique diseases, of which 223 appeared to be exacerbated by climatic hazards, 9 decreased by climatic hazards, and 54 had both exacerbated and minimal cases.

The new study doesn’t do the calculations to attribute the change, odds or magnitude of specific diseases to climate change, but it finds cases where extreme weather is likely a contributing factor.

Camilo Mora, lead author of the study and a climate data analyst at the University of Hawaii, said it’s important to note that the study does not predict future cases.

“There is absolutely no speculation here,” Mora said. “These things have already happened.”

As an example, Mora knows firsthand. About five years ago, Mora’s home in rural Colombia was flooded. For the first time in his memory, there was water in his living room, creating an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. Mora contracted Chikungunya, a nasty virus spread by mosquito bites. Although he survived, years later he still has joint pain.

Climate change sometimes works in strange ways. Mora includes a case in Siberia in 2016 when the carcass of a decades-old reindeer that died from anthrax was found in Siberia when the permafrost thawed due to warming. A child touched it and contracted anthrax, causing an outbreak.

Mora originally wanted to search medical cases to see how COVID-19 intersected with the dangers of climate change. He found instances where extreme weather exacerbated and reduced his chances of COVID-19. In some cases, extreme heat in poor neighborhoods forced people to gather to stay cool and expose themselves to disease, while in other situations people stayed home or indoors and away from others. heavy rains have reduced the spread of COVID.

long-standing climate and public health University of Washington expert Christie Ebi warned of concerns about how the conclusions were drawn and some of the methods of the study. Coal, oil and natural gas burning more frequent and intense It is an established fact that extreme weather is linked to extreme weather, and research shows that weather patterns are linked to many health problems.

“But correlation is not causation,” Ebi said in an email. “The authors did not discuss the extent to which the reviewed climate hazards have changed over the study period and the extent to which changes are attributable to climate change.”

But Dr. Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health, and Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health, Emorys Del Rio, and three other outside experts say the study is a good match for current climate. Good health warning and future. In particular, global warming and habitat loss are bringing animals and their diseases closer to humans, Bernstein said.

“This study underscores that climate change may load the dice in a way that fosters the surprise of unwanted infectious diseases,” Bernstein said in an email. We are only reporting on what we already know and what we don’t yet know, and how preventing further climate change can prevent future disasters like COVID-19. , may be even more convincing.”

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Follow AP’s climate and environment coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment.

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Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears.

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The Associated Press’ climate and environmental coverage is supported by several private foundations. Learn more about AP’s climate initiatives here. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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