Polio is back, monkeypox isn’t slowing, COVID-19 is still here – and now there’s more not-so-good news on infection: Over 200 human diseases could get worse based on climate change to a new study.
Researchers have long known that climate change affects disease. Warmer temperatures can make these areas newly popular places for disease-carrying mosquitoes, while flooding from more frequent storms can carry bacteria in their turbulent waters.
However, most studies focus on a few threats or one disease at a time. The new study, published in Nature Climate Change , builds a comprehensive map of the potential for a variety of climate hazards to be linked to 375 documented human transmissions All the ways in which disease interacts.
The authors reviewed more than 77,000 scientific articles on these diseases and climate hazards. They
found that of the 375 diseases, 218 could be caused by factors such as heat waves, sea level rise and wildfires and aggravated.
Study finds four main ways climate change exacerbates disease. First, problems arise when changes bring disease-carrying animals closer to humans. Wildfires, for example, drive bats and rodents into new areas, destroying animal habitats and increasing the likelihood that they will transmit diseases such as Ebola to humans. Other studies have shown that climate change makes it more likely that viruses can pass from animals to humans, like the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This phenomenon may also have contributed to the Zika outbreak in 2016.
In climate-driven events, people are also closer to disease-causing animals. Diseases such as cholera and Lassa fever have been linked to human activity following storms and floods. Third, climate hazards can also foster pathogens —like how disease-carrying mosquito populations thrive in warmer temperatures. Finally, climate change will reduce people’s ability to cope with disease. For example, large fluctuations in temperature can weaken the body’s immune system, which may be the cause of flu outbreaks.
If you’re interested in taking a closer look at all the diseases affected, the study authors have constructed an interactive chart linking each disease to magnify its climate hazards. So you can see, for example, how droughts, fires and floods make health problems caused by sand flies, including fever and parasitic skin diseases, more common. Happy (or not so happy) scrolling!