Earth's rising temperature means trouble for health experts trying to fight infectious diseases, microbiologists said at a scientific meeting this week. "One of the first indicators of rising global temperatures could be malaria climbing mountains," said Dr. Stephen Morse. In mountain areas where malaria is endemic, the disease is not transmitted above a certain altitude because temperatures are too cold to support the mosquitoes that carry the disease. As temperatures rise, this malaria line will rise as well.
Another change could be lengthening of the flu season. Influenza is a year-round event in the tropics. If the tropical airmass around the Earth's equator expands, as new areas lose their seasons they may also begin to see influenza year-round.
Extreme weather events will also lead to more disease. As the frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme weather events change, water supplies become more at risk, said Dr. Joan Rose. Indirect effects of climate change on infectious disease will also appear, said Morse, who warned that the effect of global warming on agriculture could lead to changes in disease transmission and distribution.
Animal diseases are also likely to reflect global warming patterns, according to Dr. Bernard Vallat. "Improving the governance of animal health systems in both the public and private sector is the most effective response to this alarming situation," he said.