Is climate change affecting how diseases spread? The consensus of scientific opinion indicates that it probably is, and almost certainly will in the future. An increase in disease and parasitism is noticeable. While it’s sometimes hard to prove and isolate what causes more rapid infectious disease transmission, there’s little doubt that warmer temperatures have made some previously inhospitable geographies well-suited for the insects or bacteria that carry and spread the disease. Malaria spreading higher on mountains in East Africa, where carrier mosquitoes formerly couldn’t survive, is but one example.
A recent research study reported in Science magazine, Climate Change and Infectious Diseases: From Evidence to a Predictive Framework highlighted some of the issues involved, including more rapid development of some parasite organisms, added stresses on certain ecosystems, and threats to sustaining agricultural crops and game species. The multidisciplinary research team reflects the complex and interrelated nature of the problem and thus, any proposed solution.
If we can truly understand the relationship between climate change and disease transmission, we can prepare for disasters and take some preventive actions. The researchers held out the hope that predictions that tied infectious disease transmission effects to a specific amount of climate warming could also trigger specific preventive or mitigating actions. Monitoring and surveillance, vector control, or food security management were among the possible actions listed. The study included a research agenda to determine and support those actions.