Modern science has prevented deadly diseases ranging from tetanus to polio, but man-made global warming could unravel our collective progress as new deadly diseases emerge as a result of climate change. We’ve rounded up a list of five deadly diseases below. That said, it’s important to note the spread of new deadly diseases could potentially be prevented if the world would listen to warnings from atmospheric scientists and do everything humanly possible to mitigate climate change.
Out of control methane pouring into the atmosphere is not the only concern from the thawing Siberian permafrost. As global warming melts the permafrost, deadly diseases lying dormant for hundreds or thousands of years could be unleashed, quickly spreading to livestock and humans. A preview of this emerging threat came as recently as July 2016 when a 75-year-old reindeer carcass became unfrozen from soaring temperatures, causing the first anthrax outbreak since 1941. The outbreak killed more than 2,000 reindeer and sickened 13 people in Siberia.
With temperatures rising in higher latitudes, diseases once confined to the tropics are now traveling far from the equator to the United States and other parts of the world not used to dealing with mosquito-borne diseases like Zika. Mosquitos carrying the virus have already crossed the U.S. border and are spreading across South Florida, creating a public health emergency. The National Institutes of Health’s Anthony Fauci recently warned that Texas and Louisiana could be next for Zika. “As we get continued warming, it’s going to become more difficult to control mosquitoes,” Andrew Monaghan, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., recently told The New York Times. “The warmer it is, the faster they can develop from egg to adult, and the faster they can incubate viruses.”
There could be other deadly viruses safely frozen for now underneath the permafrost. But as the permafrost continues to thaw from global warming, Neanderthal viruses, smallpox or other ancient illnesses could become released into the environment again after laying dormant for thousands of years. In 2015, researchers discovered a giant virus buried in the permafrost for 30,000 years that was still infectious, although the virus only infects amoebas and isn’t dangerous to humans. However, there could be other viruses harmful to humans lurking underneath the permafrost. Neanderthals and humans both lived in Siberia as recently as 28,000 years ago and there is a chance that some of the diseases that plagued both species could still be around.
Ticks are another disease transmitter like mosquitos that will likely migrate to new regions and become more active as the climate changes and summers became longer and hotter. Babesiosis is a tick-borne disease that has been increasing in the United States. The protozoan infection is mostly found in the Northeast and upper Midwest. In 2011, more than 1,100 cases of babesiosis from 15 states were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lyme disease is another tick-borne illness that could move northward if global warming is allowed to continue unabated. The tick that carries Lyme is the American blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis), otherwise known as deer tick. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the incidence of Lyme disease in the state has been increasing in recent years, an indication that deer ticks are migrating north.
Deadly cholera outbreaks could increase with climate change because the bacterial disease that causes severe diarrhea and dehydration is attracted to warm weather and warm water. The disease spreads through contaminated water and cholera could increase in developing countries with poor sanitation that are on the front lines of climate change. Extreme heat and intense storms caused by climate change could lead to flooding that spreads contaminated water. Cholera kills more than 100,000 people globally every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I would put cholera highest on my list to worry about with respect to climate change,” Dr. David M. Morens, senior advisor to the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Think Progress. “Cholera likes warm weather, so the warmer the Earth gets and the warmer the water gets, the more it’s going to like it. Climate change will likely make cholera much worse.”
Via Live Science