Tracking Vulnerabilities to the Risks of Infectious Disease Transmission due to Climate Change in Europe

by Amelia Hamiter

Suk et al. (2014) examine vulnerability as a measurement of both the impact of climate change on infections disease transmission in a region and the region’s ability to respond (described here as adaptive capacity). This concept of vulnerability differs from that used in most public health practices, which generally do not take adaptive capacity as a component of vulnerability. Indeed, the authors note that the health sector has produced little research that examines infectious disease transmission due to climate change or the effects of different socioeconomic development pathways in studies of vulnerability. Thus, they take on the task of creating a quantitative indicator to measure regional vulnerabilities that combines all of these factors. Their projections assess which regions are projected to undergo climate changes more significant than their adaptive capacities, and thus are particularly vulnerable. They evaluate that some of these high vulnerabilities are driven by low adaptive capacities, while others have high adaptive capacities yet face enough projected climate change that they are still highly vulnerable. The researchers recommend that the next steps forward are to carry out more disease-specific and more detailed health indicators of vulnerability studies. Continue reading

Projected Delays in Reducing Waterborne and Water-Related Infectious Diseases in China Under Climate Change

by Allison Hu

In 2010, infectious disease due to unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WSH) were estimated to be responsible for 337,000 deaths globally and the loss of over 21 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) (Hodges et al. 2014). These WSH-attributable diseases include soil-transmitted helminth infections, schistosomiasis, diarrhoeal diseases, and vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and Japanese encephalitis. In China, the WSH-attributable disease burden is concentrated in low-income areas and in young children. Cases not leading to morbidity and mortality, these diseases can causes malnutrition, stunting, impaired school performance, immunodeficiency, and impaired cognitive functioning which can hinder economic growth and development at a population level (Hodges et al.). Furthermore, there are studies associating certain diseases with key environmental variables that are responsive to changes in climate, such as temperature, precipitation, and relative humidity. Temperatures changes can influence the replication rate and survival of pathogens and vectors in the environment and impact transmission. Heavy precipitation can overwhelm existing water and sanitation systems, therefore mobilizing pathogens, while drought conditions can increase pathogen exposure by limiting the water available for hygiene and forcing populations to resort to the use of contaminated water supplies. Continue reading

Distribution of West Nile Virus, United States

by Sarah King

West Nile virus (WNV) is a relatively new disease in North America, and consequently there is very little information available about how climate change will affect its distribution. In order to gain a better understanding, Ryan J. Harrigan and his colleagues modeled the incidence of the disease under current climate conditions (2003–2011) to predict how it will spread in the future (2013). The models proved to give a significantly accurate prediction for 2012 WNV distributions. They also projected the range of WNV for 2050 and 2080, which showed that predicted warmer temperatures and decreased precipitation would expand the range of WNV beyond its current bounds. The model and its predictive capabilities may help public health and policy officials prepare for and mitigate possible future outbreaks of WNV. Continue reading