Saturday, August 15, 2015

Infectious Diseases Like It Hot:  How Climate Change Helps Cholera and Salmonella Outbreaks

Microscopic illustration of bacteria (Credit: Shutterstock) Click to Enlarge.
Every year, about one million Americans and tens of millions of people worldwide suffer the debilitating effects of salmonella poisoning, episodes sometimes serious enough for hospitalization.  Cholera, while rare in the United States, has been increasing steadily in other countries for the last decade, with up to 5 million cases annually, and poses a real threat after natural disasters.

For the two bacteria that cause these gastrointestinal diseases, and possibly for other infectious agents like malaria, global warming presents a real opportunity.

They like it hot.

In recent years, atmospheric climate change has prompted a growing number of extreme weather events, including heat waves, prolonged drought, heavy precipitation, and superstorms, which, in turn, have encouraged shifts in the delicate balance of the planet’s ecosystems.  These weather events, which already kill tens of thousands of people annually, also indirectly encourage the spread of infections when food and water become contaminated, a scenario that almost certainly will increase the prevalence of such infections as salmonella and cholera.

Moreover, human migration and the loss of health infrastructure, as well as malnutrition caused by food insecurity, could make humans more susceptible to infections.  All of these could exacerbate the spread of infectious diseases if global warming continues unabated.
Outbreaks of cholera, for example, typically stop in winter and reemerge in summer, making it a major global concern, since hot days are getting hotter and their seasons are lasting longer. Natural disasters can exacerbate cholera when drinking water and food become contaminated. Cholera kills more than 100,000 people globally every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more at Infectious Diseases Like It Hot:  How Climate Change Helps Cholera and Salmonella Outbreaks

No comments:

Post a Comment