Climate Change Could Spur Disease Outbreaks
Most scientist agree greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will continue to boost average temperatures and increase the risk of droughts and powerful storms worldwide. A new study suggests this effect, called climate change, is also associated with outbreaks of infectious diseases, including Zika virus, West Nile virus, malaria, and dengue fever.
For this study, researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Colorado focused on an April 2016 earthquake in Ecuador that coincided with a strong El Niño – a weather pattern associated with heavy rainfall and warmer-than-normal air temperatures and linked to outbreaks of dengue fever. They discovered a significant spike in Zika cases, which rose 12-fold in the earthquake area.
The researchers, who were operating a mobile health clinic following the earthquake, explained they saw many people who were sleeping outside without shelter from mosquitoes. Zika is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. They also noted that cases of West Nile doubled in New Orleans in the year after Hurricane Katrina.