Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Climate change leading to emergence of new infections and pathogens

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  Climate change is leading to emergence of new
infectious diseases and increase in insensitivity of new pathogens.

According to Dr Seyed E Hasnain, chairman of the Committee on Climate
Change and Impact on Human Health, department of health research,
Government of India, infectious diseases particularly those
transmitted by vectors like mosquitoes and flies are likely to be
impacted by climate change.

"Climate change is a reality. The change in disease pattern is also a
reality. We are establishing a link between the two so that steps
could be taken to minimise the impact. We cannot stop or undue the
damage of climate change. But we can stop the link between climate
change and infectious diseases," Dr Hasnain said.

He said due to climate change there had been erratic rainfalls leading
to water logging and spurt in the mosquito menace resulting in
largescale cases of dengue and malaria. "Further, insensitivity in new
pathogens is going up. There have been a sudden spurt in flu,
chikungunya and other viral cases," he added.

Dr Hasnain, who recently published a research study on climate change,
pointed out that climate change and associated increases in climate
variability will likely further exacerbate health disparities in the
world. Global warming may directly influence the distribution of
arthropod and rodent vectors expanding or shifting their habitats into
new areas.

Extreme weather conditions, in particular the frequency and duration
of rainfalls, alter seasonal patterns of emergence and expansion of
diseases. Basically every infectious disease with a seasonal pattern
can be influenced by changes in climate. "However, direct proof for
the influence of climate change on the emergence of new or frequency
of established infections is difficult to obtain. We need further
research in the area," Dr Hasnain observed.

In India climate change is believed to have exacerbated endemic
malaria, dengue, yellow fever, cholera, and chikungunya, as well as
chronic diseases.

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