Public Health At Risk As Planet Warms

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Global warming’s tumultuous temperature and precipitation
changes may cause a spike in deadly infectious diseases in people and animals,
according to this month’s report by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

The “deadly dozen” diseases such as Lyme disease, yellow
fever, plague, and bird flu, may skyrocket as climate change transforms
ecosystems for the worse. Babesia, cholera, Ebola, parasites, red tides, Rift
Valley fever, sleeping sickness and tuberculosis complete the deadly dozen
list, National
Geographic reports

The WCS report called The Deadly Dozen:
Wildlife Diseases in the Age of Climate Change
was released at the International
Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Conservation Congress
held in Spain.

According to the authors, the best defense is good
offense—sensitive wildlife monitoring can detect how these
are spreading in the animal world so health professionals can
prepare to mitigate their impact. 

“The term ‘climate change’ conjures images of melting ice
caps and rising sea levels that threaten coastal cities and nations, but just
as important is how increasing temperatures and fluctuating precipitation
levels will change the distribution of dangerous pathogens,” said Dr. Steven E.
Sanderson, WCS President and CEO.

“Without the presence of wildlife, we would be clueless
about what’s going on in the environment,” said William Karesh, report coauthor
and vice president of Global Health Programs at the WCS. “Why wait until people
are sick and dying?”


Published: October 14, 2008