Zika: 'Omen' for a Warming Planet?

A number of scientists are saying the spread of the Zika virus outbreak, which is now gripping Brazil and other parts of the Americas, may have been helped by climate change—and may offer a sign of the kind of public health impacts to come.

The World Health Organization declared a global public health emergency over the possible connection between Zika and microcephaly, and warned last month that the virus is “spreading explosively.” As many as 4 million people in the region could be infected by the end of this year, the agency warned.

While a definitive link hasn’t been made between the virus, transmitted primarily by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and climate change, changes in temperatures and precipitation have impacts on the mosquitoes’ habitat.

From the Guardian:

Inside Climate News reports that “scientists and public health officials see the outbreak as an omen in a world steadily warming under the effects of climate change.” It continues:

Nick Watts, head of a commission on health and climate change for the The Lancet, told reporters last week, “Unless mitigated, climate change is likely to bring the spread of new emergent infectious diseases like Zika virus.”

The outbreak also shows another way in which climate change hits women harder, Amelia Urry writes at Grist, and notes that

And this all points to the need for global leaders to take seriously the public health risks a warming planet has in store, says Fiona Armstrong, executive director of the Australia-based Climate and Health Alliance.

She warns, “Political leaders and health authorities are underestimating the breadth and complexity associated with the risks to human health that come along with a warmer planet.”

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