As we’ve all heard, the climate of the world is warming. As a matter of fact, the year 2001 was globally the second warmest (much more on this subject forthcoming in another article) in over a hundred years. With this warming, scientists have verified an increase of disease epidemics in plants, animals and humans.
The recent data confirms suspicions that pathogens and their carriers are able to spread farther and faster in warm weather. Additionally, the shorter cold periods allow for pathogens that otherwise might die, to survive into the next warm season.
For diseases that are already widespread, the warming Earth has created a fertile environment for rapid spread and decreased containment of potentially fatal pathogens.
Some of the severely stricken species include oysters that have been ravaged by a parasite that thrives in warm weather, Hawaiian songbirds suffering from widespread malaria due to increased disease-carrying mosquitoes that flourish in higher temperatures and corals weakened by higher temperatures making them more susceptible to fungus.
Researchers also found that in weather patterns that bring warmer temperatures, viruses multiply and spread more easily. This has been proven with the spread of the Rift Valley virus in East Africa. During a period of unusual and prolonged warm and wet spells, thousands of people in the region were killed in 1998.
In many parts of the world, farming and fishing are undergoing a decline, due in large part to increased global air and seawater temperatures. Additionally, in studying recent epidemics in the animal kingdom, researchers found links between warming and the spread of disease.