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Climate Change Ups Infectious Disease Risks

Waterborne and insect-transmitted infectious diseases get a big boost from climate change. Steve Mirsky reports

A direct effect on human health related to climate change is the likely increase in infectious diseases transmitted by insects or through contaminated water.

In the March 25th issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, infectious disease researcher Emily Shuman points out that insects are more active at higher temperatures and broaden their range. Altered weather patterns bring drought to some areas, flooding to others and a higher likelihood of water contamination to both.

The World Health Organization predicts a 3 to 5 percent increase in the population at risk for malaria with a temperature increase of 2 to 3 degrees Celsius. And two degrees is our best-case scenario right now. The WHO also sees 10 percent more diarrheal diseases related to unclean water by 2030 due to climate change.

Shuman urges the development of warning systems to spot disease outbreaks early, along with continued research into treatments and vaccines, which, she writes, “will go a long way in preventing human suffering that could otherwise occur as a result of climate change.” [See http://bit.ly/bQhdJX]

—Steve Mirsky

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

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