A “deadly dozen” diseases ranging from avian flu to yellow fever are likely to spread more because of climate change, the Wildlife Conservation Society said on October 7. The society, based in the Bronx Zoo in the United States and which works in 60 nations, urged better monitoring of wildlife health to help give an early warning of how pathogens might spread with global warming. It listed the “deadly dozen” as avian flu, tick-borne babesia, cholera, ebola, parasites, plague, lyme disease, red tides of algal blooms, Rift Valley fever, sleeping sickness, tuberculosis and yellow fever. “Even minor disturbances can have far reaching consequences on what diseases (wild animals) might encounter and transmit as climate changes,” said Steven Sanderson, head of the society.
“The term ‘climate change’ conjures images of melting ice caps and rising sea levels that threaten coastal cities and nations, but just as important is how increasing temperatures and fluctuating precipitation levels will change the distribution of dangerous pathogens,” he said.
“Monitoring wildlife health will help us predict where those trouble spots will occur and plan how to prepare,” he said in a statement.
The U.N. Climate Panel says that greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from human use of fossil fuels, are raising temperatures and will disrupt rainfall patterns and have impacts ranging from heatwaves to melting glaciers.
“For thousands of years people have known of a relationship between health and climate,” William Karesh of the society told a news conference in Barcelona to launch the report at an International Union for Conservation of Nature congress. Among phrases, people said they were “under the weather” when ill, he noted.
He said that the report was not an exhaustive list but an illustration of the range of infectious diseases that may threaten humans and animals.