Climate Change Affects the Spread of Disease

With the recent outbreak of the West Nile Virus this past summer, leading to an estimated 147 deaths nationwide, officials with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are left wondering what has led to the increase in cases. And while reports of cases of the virus have been reported across the U.S., Texas in particular seems to have been especially hard hit.

One of the culprits has been the oppressively hot weather, which increases the number of mosquitoes, which spread the disease, as well as the development of the West Nile virus within those mosquitoes. Mosquitoes infected with the virus transfer it to humans and other animals, such as birds, who then carry the disease to other areas and in turn infect more mosquitoes when they are bitten. And while the West Nile virus itself doesn’t typically result in death, less than 1% die from the disease, the fact that there is currently no cure for the virus is a cause for concern.

According to reports from Reuters and the LA Times, it is feared that global climate change could have an overall effect on the spread of viruses such as the West Nile virus. And with no cure evident, other steps have to be taken toward prevention. The most notable way to prevent the contracting of the West Nile virus is to wear insecticides while outside and for local agencies to treat for mosquitoes on the ground and in the air.

It leaves one to wonder though, with pesticides being sprayed in the air of our neighborhoods nationwide, what new problems will develop from being exposed to these pesticides. It would seem it is just another bad side effect of a changing world climate. A cure for the West Nile virus would be the most desirable, but without one it would seem officials must do what they have to in the public interest.

With ever-increasing droughts and heat waves followed by intermittent rain, side effects of a warming greenhouse effect, the perfect conditions are created for mosquito breeding. And while this year’s outbreak is thought to have reached its peak, it is the subsequent hot summers that will invariably follow which have scientists the most concerned.

For more information about how a changing climate is affecting U.S. communities, visit: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/26/us-usa-health-westnile-texas-idUSBRE88P1JN20120926
and
http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-west-nile-virus-outbreaks-may-get-worse-as-planet-gets-hotter-20120910,0,4629323.story