We Can Expect More Outbreaks Like Zika As The Climate Changes

The factors leading to the current Zika outbreak won’t be clear for some time, but environmental health experts say there’s a good chance such infectious diseases will become more common as the global climate warms.

Mosquitoes, the blood-sucking insects responsible for transmitting Zika virus in Brazil and more than 20 other countries and territories in the Americas, are responsive to changing weather conditions, and experts warn they may increase in numbers as temperatures rise and as changes in precipitation levels create more standing pools of water — mosquitoes’ favorite breeding ground. More of the insects that host the virus could mean a higher chance of being infected.

It’s too soon to say whether the Zika outbreak, which is causing babies to be born with smaller heads and brains that aren’t fully developed, is driven by a changing climate. But it’s certainly the kind of health consequence scientists have anticipated seeing more of as global temperatures rise.

“If I were a gambler and I wanted to place a wager on the healthiest possible future in terms of these mosquito-transmitted diseases, would that future look more like what we are looking at with climate change — with warmer temperatures and more intense precipitation — or a future that looks more like the climate of 1900?” Dr. Aaron Bernstein, the associate director of Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, told The Huffington Post. “I would probably bet on the latter.”

There are countless factors that contribute to the rise of an infectious disease like Zika, added Kristine Ebi, an expert on health risks and responses to climate change at the University of Washington. There’s a good possibility that a warming planet is one of them.

“This is the kind of thing the field has been saying —> Read More