Impacts on water and foodborne diseases

Climate-related effects on water and food-borne diseases are likely to be a much more significant factor in developing countries than in the US. The El-Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle is already associated with large fluctuations in incidence of cholera in Peru (Pascual et al, 2000). Although climate change may affect the overall availability of water in the US, it does not seem likely to compromise the safety of drinking water. Higher temperatures may, however, heighten risk of salmonella in the US, and hotter, less-mixed estuaries may lead to more frequent contamination of fish and shellfish. Effects on food production and distribution and on water supply systems in the US are likely to have a much greater effect on cost than on human health. Exceptions to this generalization might occur as a result of major storm disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, when populations are ripped away from water and health infrastructure, and when heavy precipitation causes storm runoff to overload sewage treatment plants.

An increase in temperatures, especially winter temperatures that are typically low enough to kill off many pest populations, is expected to exacerbate the proliferation of pests such as insects and rodents. Climate warming, particularly if it occurs rapidly, is likely to change ecosystems, affecting predator-prey relationships and allowing some populations of disease-bearing pests to proliferate. The hanta virus outbreak in the southwestern US a few years ago, caused by an abnormally large rodent population, was a manifestation of this kind of risk. Warming and associated changes in water availability, evaporation, soil moisture and habitat may also change the areas in which diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus and dengue fever can thrive. While the US' public health infrastructure is sufficiently strong that these disease risks should be manageable, except when there have been massive disruptions such as in severe hurricanes or floods, Americans traveling overseas are likely to experience less adequate controls.

Continue reading here: Health impacts resulting from international interconnections

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