Public Health and Climate

South America Weather Forecast: Gastrointestinal Disease Likely

Climate scientists predict that climate change will lead to increased variability in precipitation over much of South America.  Research by Carlton et al (2013) on residents of northwestern rural Ecuador who rely on streams and rivers for their drinking water shows how those changes might impact water quality and associated rates of diarrhea, a water-related disease which leads to approximately 1 million deaths of young children worldwide each year.  The study further highlighted curious dynamics involving precipitation and water-borne disease.

Using Google to Track the Effects of Climate Change

The internet’s vast quantities of information and its popularity among people all over the globe represent a tempting and enormous data pool for researchers. Political strategists, economists, and epidemiologists mine internet usage data to learn about human behaviors and cultural trends, producing interesting results (though sometimes flawed; see Butler 2013). Could scientists who study climate change use similar online data-mining tools to better understand and track the effects of climate change? A recent paper by Proulx and colleagues argues just that.

Cascading Complexity: Models, Tsetse, Climate Change and Agriculture

Joe Messina documents his work in East Africa where researchers look at the data like the tsetse would, selecting habitats based on desirable conditions of rainfall, temperature and soil moisture. The MSU team developed a model programmed to identify the most attractive habitats and predict the time when the pests could arrive in those places. This information creates a more effective eradication campaign, Messina says, attacking insects where they are in the present, rather than where they were a few years ago.

Climate Change: Implications for Public Health

How the vectors and ecology of infectious disease alter as the globe warms is one of the most poorly understood topics in climate change science, but most important for human health.  Globally, infectious disease accounts for 1/3 of the 52 million people who die each year1, most of them in the lower latitudes. Recent experience with West Nile Virus in our own country reminds us how fast a new disease can spread, and the opportunities for it to do so in a warming world. 

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