“Global warming could propel more viruses and bacteria among us”

To the untrained eye, COVID-19 and climate change can look like chalk and cheese. But these are definitely linked, public health experts have said, as they see the possible release of bacteria and viruses unknown to nature as a result of global warming.

These topics were discussed at a workshop on “Global Warming and Health Issues” hosted by the Department of Community Medicine at the Government Medical College in Kozhikode on Tuesday.

Asma Rahim, professor and head of the department of community medicine, pointed out that the SARS-CoV-2 virus that caused COVID-19 is thought to have come from a veterinary market in China. “Due to unbridled human activities such as deforestation and the involvement of land and forest mafias, the habitat of wild animals is under threat. There is a strong possibility of interaction between humans and unknown microorganisms. A classic example of this is the release of Nipah virus from stressed bats,” she said.

Another case was that of the Ebola virus in West Africa. Dr Rahim said melting ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctic regions due to global warming could lead to the discharge of unidentified viruses and bacteria among us.

U. Surendran, Senior Scientist and Head of Land and Water Management Research Group, Center for Water Resources Development and Management, Kozhikode, said that over the past five decades, coverage forest in Kerala had declined due to human interventions. Natural forests give way to plantations. Biodiversity was also changing due to which animals found it difficult to survive in the forests. The presence of invasive species and micro-organisms complicates their lives and animals encroach on agricultural land.

“Another important factor is the erosion of the topsoil. Climate change has led to an increase in the intensity of rainfall in the state, due to which the ground reaches the ocean faster. This leads to a deficiency of essential micronutrients such as copper, zinc and calcium in the soil, which affects agricultural production,” he added.

Vice Principal KG Sajeeth Kumar spoke about common infections that occur during summer and EN Abdul Latheef, Head of Department of Dermatology, gave a lecture on skin protection during these months. T. Jayakrishnan, Professor, Department of Community Medicine, moderated the event for journalists and representatives of local organizations.

Teresa H. Sadler