Global warming is an imminent threat to human health specially when dealing with infectious diseases.
Climate change is not only affecting the environment and economic activities, as we know them, but the gradual increase in global temperature has terrible effects on current infectious diseases.
Changes in temperature, rainfall patterns, and humidity levels affect how disease vectors multiply, migrate, and survive. These changes may be subtle to humans, but have contributed to the appearance of diseases in regions where they have not been seen before. A small increase in temperature and urbanization could allow the mosquitos that transmit Dengue to move to new areas, such as Europe and mountainous areas of South America.
Infections transmitted by water are also strongly affected by climate. During dry seasons, the reduction in water availability results in poor sanitation making vulnerable populations more likely to be in contact with contaminated water. The following table, from the World Health Organization (WHO), shows examples of how environmental changes can affect the occurrence of some infectious diseases.
If climate change modifies the behavior of vectors, there will be a significant impact on how we prevent the spread of infectious diseases. If mosquitoes that carry diseases like Malaria, Dengue, or Japanese Encephalitis change their fly times, reproduce faster, or become more aggressive, current public health prevention must undergo significant changes.
The WHO has estimated the future global burden if temperature continues increasing by 2-3ºC, on average. By 2030, there will be 10% more digestive diseases that will, principally, affect young children. They also explained that the estimated population at risk of Malaria will increase by 3 to 5%.
Actions to mitigate the spread of infectious diseases must start sooner than later. However, to better understand the infectious transmission patterns, further research must be considered in order to develop early warning systems and vaccines to prevent humans from suffering from the consequences of climate change.
Latin American Post | Laura Iguavita
Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto