How our climate changed Zika (Commentary)

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How our climate changed Zika (Commentary)

Oxitec-mosquitoPRESS RELEASE – Climate change, has earned the reputation of being, one of the greatest environmental phenomenon facing our global society today.

Transcending across boundaries, the concept of climate change isn’t immobile to one region of the Earth. Climate Change has been responsible for unusual weather patterns globally.  In 2015, there was an extreme rainfall in the Atacama Desert which is considered one of the driest places on Earth and as of recently there has been extreme drought in the Caribbean region which usually experiences substantial rainfall.

As the Earth begins to warm due to climate change, this warming process can act as an incubator to diseases like Malaria and Zika that thrive on warm weather. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that an increase of global temperatures anywhere from 2 to 3 degrees Celsius can contribute to an increase in the number of people at risk of malaria by around 3-5%.

It should also come as no surprise that Zika, a mosquito borne disease, has been rapidly spreading outside the confines of the equatorial regions where outbreaks usually occurred. Commonly observed in equatorial regions of Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, the Zika virus has been declared an epidemic by the WHO.

Zika, a form of virus known as a flavivirus, mutates frequently and is spread through animal vectors such as the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that are found in warm, humid areas. Warming of their environment within their viable range according to Paul Epstein of Harvard Medical School, boosts the Aedes Aegypti’s rates of reproduction, prolongs their breeding season, and shortens the maturation period for the microbes they disperse. As parts of the Earth that are usually inhospitable to Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes become warmer, the geographic range of these mosquitoes is also increased. Each of these changes can mean more humans are exposed to mosquitoes thus the proliferation of mosquito borne diseases.

With our rapidly changing climate fuelling diseases, scientists are already looking towards water-borne diseases being the next major outbreak. Flooding, an outcome of extreme precipitation due to climate change, not only leads to mosquito-borne diseases but also cause water-borne diseases such as cholera. People living along coastlines and areas inundated with water courses inclusive of but not limited to: South East Asia, Equatorial Africa, the Amazonia and Caribbean, are vulnerable to a substantial increase of water-borne diseases. The environment most persons inhabit isn’t compatible to the extreme changes of climate that is gradually manifesting itself.  We have slowly been cooking up the perfect climate for a disease. It is paramount that we recognize the effects of climate change and break free from our actions that contribute towards its proliferation.

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