Climate change will make disease worse as new viruses could be introduced to UK | Science | New

UK weather: climate change warning issued by an expert

Climate change will make the disease worse and may well bring new viruses to the UK, experts have warned. It comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) calls for the health effects of climate change to be ‘front and center’ during ongoing negotiations at the COP27 summit in Egypt this fortnight. In fact, the United Nations health agency, which has previously dubbed climate change “the greatest threat to the health of humanity”, predicts that the phenomenon will lead to a conservative estimate of 250,000 additional deaths per year. between 2030 and 2050.

Climate change, Jess Beagley, head of policy for the Global Climate and Health Alliance, told AFP, “is a threat multiplier. As climate change gets worse, we’re going to see the greatest threats to human health increase.

According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, almost 70% of all deaths worldwide are currently caused by diseases that global warming will only worsen.

Meanwhile, research from the University of Hawaii has found that climate change is already making 58% of all infectious diseases worse.

WHO disease expert Dr Sylvie Briand told BBC News: ‘Climate change has provided more opportunities for emerging diseases, new infections.

“Urbanization and human mobility are two factors that increase the risk for the future. If you add climate change to that, you have the perfect recipe for a major threat to global health security.

Climate change could bring mosquito-borne horrors like Zika and dengue fever to the UK (Image: Getty Images)

The potential range of A aegypti in 2080

The range of the A aegypti virus-carrying mosquito in 2080 under the worst-case emissions scenario (Image: Stanford University/Sadie Ryan)

Climate change can promote disease in a number of ways, perhaps the most obvious of which is how warming temperatures provide a more conducive environment for many bacterial diseases.

Dr Briand added: “For example, cholera is a very dangerous disease and this bacterium is found in the algae present in the water.

“As the water gets warmer, they can multiply, and then the bacteria multiply as well.”

In addition to encouraging bacteria, global warming also allows the spread of disease-carrying insects like mosquitoes.

Wellcome Trust infectious disease expert Dr Felipe Colón-González told BBC News: “We are seeing an invasion of malaria and dengue fever in the highlands of Africa, Asia and Latin America, where they were previously absent.

“We are now seeing local transmission of dengue in Europe – something that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.”

READ MORE: Critical 1.5C temperature rise ‘could hit in 9 years’

A West Nile virus warning sign

West Nile virus could take hold in UK as climate warms (Image: Getty Images)

An infographic on West Nile virus

West Nile virus symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash (Image: Getty Images)

In fact, some experts fear climate change could bring dengue fever and other insect-borne viruses to the UK – some of which have even arrived already.

Sustainability and public health expert Dr Laurence Wainwright from the University of Oxford told ‘The most significant disease risks to the UK posed by climate change come from possibly diseases that are spread by a host – mainly mosquitoes and ticks.

“These bloodsuckers – which are prolific vectors of disease – tend to do better in warmer, more humid climates.

“As the UK warms up, it is very possible that we will see the emergence and spread of viruses that have never been seen in the country before.

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Dengue virus artist's impression

Dengue fever has been seen in Europe – something Dr Colón-González said was once unthinkable (Image: Getty Images)

Dr Wainwright continued: “We could see West Nile virus, for example. This nasty disease, which has recently appeared in Italy and a few other European countries due to unusually warm springs, causes a range of problems, including paralysis in rare cases. We currently have no vaccine against it – and few treatments.

As climate change brings higher temperatures, more extreme weather and more frequent floor coverings, Dr Wainwright added, we could also see other mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika virus and dengue fever. appear and settle in the UK.

Regarding ticks, he added, “there is growing evidence that climate change has contributed and will continue to contribute to the success of these parasites.

“Ticks can carry and spread a variety of diseases, ranging from Lyme disease to tick-borne encephalitis – the latter of which we have already seen a few cases in the UK in recent years.”

Another way climate change may increase humanity’s burden of disease is in how it shifts the habitats of wild animals – bringing them, and the pathogens they carry, into closer contact with us. .

Dr Briand explained: “This offers viruses that would otherwise have remained in their animal reservoir the opportunity to spread to the human population – and then amplify into large epidemics or even pandemics.”

She added: “That’s what we’ve seen, for example, with Covid.”

It is important, Dr. Briand concluded, that humanity “prepares” for the diseases that climate change will bring and exacerbate.

She says: “[We need] better vaccines, we need better antibiotics, we need a toolkit to fight diseases like this.

“[And] we must ensure equal access to these tools worldwide. »

Teresa H. Sadler