Extreme El Niño Events May Help Spread Diseases

Dangerous diseases could possibly be riding the ocean currents from country to country thanks to El Niño, and some scientists think it may be happening more often because of climate change.

Health issues and climate change have been linked in the past. For instance, as temperatures increase and weather patterns change, disease-carrying mosquitoes remain more active and can spread illness, and air pollution can influence cardiovascular disease and asthma.

Now, a new study suggests that as El Niño events intensify due to a warming climate, the weather system’s water currents can spread infectious diseases across oceans.

Scientists think they have evidence of this already happening in the arrival of Asian strains of waterborne bacteria, known as Vibrios, in Peru, Dr. Jaime Martinez-Urtaza, researcher in the department of biology and biochemistry at the University of Bath in England and lead author of the study, told The Huffington Post.

This group of bacteria can cause stomach illness if you’re exposed to a strain in seawater or by eating contaminated seafood. Asian strains of the bacteria emerged in Latin America around the same time as extreme El Niño events, according to the study.

El Niño is a natural weather phenomenon that occurs when there’s unusually warm water at the surface of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Scientists have linked intensifying El Niño events to climate change, but are still studying the issue.

“There is some concern that in a warming environment, with more water vapor in the atmosphere, these conditions may intensify El Niño events — however, this is an area of current research,” Martinez-Urtaza said.

El Niño can fuel heavy winds and rain in some parts of the world, such as South America, and reduce rainfall in others, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.tocal.nsw.edu.au/farms/Tocals-e-farm/the-climate-of-tocal/floods,-drought-and-the-southern-oscillation-index" —> Read More