"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Experts have warned that climate change will fuel the spread of infectious diseases.

A team of infectious disease experts called for greater awareness and preparedness within the medical field to cope with the impact of climate change on the spread of diseases. Their article, published today, sounds the alarm in regards to the emergence and spread of harmful pathogens. The authors also urge the medical community to update their education and training and take steps to combat global warming.

“Clinicians need to be prepared to deal with changes in the infectious disease landscape,” said lead writer George R. Thompson. Thompson is a professor within the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, and Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at UC Davis School of Medicine. “Knowing the relationship between climate change and disease behavior can guide the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases.”

Thompson encouraged physicians and practitioners to keep up “a high index of suspicion for moving diseases.” “I think as our understanding of the disease improves, there will be more testing and we'll miss fewer cases that way,” he said.

Changing landscape of infectious diseases

Infectious diseases will be brought on by viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites. Many of those diseases are transmitted from animals to humans or from humans to humans.

One form of infectious disease is vector-borne diseases. They are brought on by pathogens carried by vectors corresponding to mosquitoes, fleas and ticks. Some of the diseases carried by the vectors are dengue, malaria and Zika.

Changing rainfall patterns are increasing the range of vectors and their energetic periods. Short, warm winters and long summers are also related to more vector-borne diseases. For example, tick-borne diseases (corresponding to babesiosis and Lyme disease) now occur in winter. They are also present in the western and northern regions than prior to now.

“We're seeing cases of tick-borne diseases in January and February,” said Matthew Phillips, first writer of the study. Phillips is a fellow in infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “Tick season is starting earlier and with more active ticks across a wider range. That means more tick bites and, with that, tick-borne diseases.”

Another concern is malaria. The mosquitoes that spread the disease are spreading northward, that is climate change. Changes in rainfall patterns have led to more mosquitoes and increased disease transmission rates.

“As an infectious disease physician, one of the scary things that happened last summer was the locally acquired cases of malaria. We saw cases in Texas and Florida and then all the way north of Maryland, which was really were surprising. Didn't travel outside of the US,” Phillips said.

Zoonotic diseases, corresponding to plague and hantavirus (carried by rodents), are also showing changes in incidence and site. Experts noted changes in animal migration patterns and natural ranges. Wild animals are coming closer to humans resulting from habitat loss. This increases the chance of animal diseases spreading to humans and the emergence of recent pathogens.

The study also pointed to the emergence of recent fungal infections, corresponding to Candida auris (C. auris), and a shift within the area of interest of some fungal pathogens. For example, the fungal infection Coccidioides (also often called valley fever) was endemic to the new, dry regions of California and Arizona. But recently valley fever has been diagnosed as far north as Washington state.

Changes in rainfall patterns and coastal water temperatures may affect the spread of waterborne diseases corresponding to E. coli and Vibrio. According to the team, sea levels are rising, and storm surges and coastal flooding that was once rare or extreme events have gotten more frequent.

Call on the medical community to take motion.

In the past few years, infectious diseases, corresponding to COVID-19, have greatly affected the world.

“They can emerge and cause absolute chaos for the entire world and then we forget about them for a while. Still, the epidemic potential of epidemics and infections really dictates that we make sure Stay involved with federal funding agencies and advisory groups to make sure infectious diseases don't slip too far behind the public's radar,” explained Thompson.

The team called for stronger measures to watch infectious diseases and urged clinicians to coach clinicians to anticipate changes in infectious disease patterns.

“This isn't a hopeless situation. We can take different steps to organize and help deal with these changes. Medical experts see first-hand the results of climate change on people's health. Thus, policies They have a task in advocating it could possibly slow climate change,” Phillips said.

Regina C. LaRocque, an associate professor of drugs at Harvard Medical School and an infectious disease physician at Harvard Medical School, is an writer of the study.

This study was supported partly by National Institutes of Health Grants T32AI007061 and 5U19AI166798.