Climate Change poses many threats to our planet and researchers at the United Nations University are drawing considerable attention to one which could be potentially fatal to large amounts of people in parts of Europe, West and Central Africa, and South Africa.
Dengue is a deadly virus which is carried and transmitted by the bite of a female mosquito, causing tremendous pain and death. According to Reuters, attention has been drawn to the pending risks that the virus poses by way of the first-ever maps of dengue vulnerability which were published on Tuesday. The maps were published as a preventative tool meant to assist in indicating which parts of the world, because of the changing climate, will be most vulnerable to the deadly virus that seems to be “on the move.”
Reuters notes the relationship between the virus and climate change communicated in the published reports.
“‘Changes to climate could result in increased exposure and pose a serious threat to areas that do not currently experience endemic dengue’, as the planet warms, dengue could spread to large parts of Europe and mountainous regions of South America which are too cold currently to sustain mosquito populations year-round.”
The risk to portions of Central Africa is also great mainly due to the general lack of proper health care in addition to environmental changes. American Live Wire adds, “Dengue may spread to some areas in West and Central Africa due to poor sanitation and drinking water facilities and also due to insufficient healthcare coverage.”
Worry increases at the news that there is no vaccine for the deadly virus, which claims around 20,000 lives each year while infecting millions more. The recently published maps allow for the nations at risk to take the necessary precautions before the possible outcome becomes reality. It also suggests an even greater need to curb climate change.
Furthermore, American Live Wire adds that experts assume “the original number of people being impacted by dengue could be three times this number suggested by the WHO, which is even more scary.” The urgency in knowing the vulnerable locations increases with the understanding that the only manner to control the spread of the disease is to determine the sites where mosquitoes carrying the disease are breeding and fumigate.
Corinne Schuster-Wallace, senior researcher at the UN University, discussed with Reuters the need for a reaction and plan to deal with the threats brought on by a continually changing climate.
“We’ve seen from Ebola that in this global world that we’re living in that infectious diseases can travel around. The conditions for these diseases are dynamic over time and given that we’re changing our social and environmental dynamics, the global distribution of these infectious diseases like dengue is going to change.”
Schuster-Wallace also notes that the maps are not fully intended to predict outbreaks, but instead, they are intended to locate the areas that will surely “become endemic” if the mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus arrived in these particular locations and the climate continues to alter as it has.
[Feature image courtesy of Earth Times]