Is climate change impacting the spread of viruses including COVID-19, monkeypox?

Dustin Dorsey Image
Tuesday, August 23, 2022
Is climate change impacting the spread of viruses?
Climate change can have an impact on the environment, but a new report says it could affect how diseases are spread, affecting people's health.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- We know that climate change has an impact on our environment, but it's also impacting our health.

A new study out of the University of Hawaii is linking the climate crisis our world is facing to the worsening and spread of diseases.

There have been seven public health emergencies of international concern in the last 15 years according to the World Health Organization.

UCSF Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong says there are lesser known factors that are partially to blame.

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"Viruses spread most efficiently based on, not only humans getting together in different ways, when you think about human-to-human transmission, but the whole relationship that humans have to the ecosystem," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "So, to things around us."

Drought, rising temperatures and even fires - the impacts from climate change can increase cases, make diseases more severe and even give us less chance to cope according to a study out of the University of Hawaii.

Throughout California, our climate crises and each have played a role in our health according to Dr. Chin-Hong.

"We have seen an increase in some diarrheal diseases," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "We've seen an increase certainly of Valley Fever in California, more than four times in the last few decades. All of that sort of speaks to perturbations in climate."

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Meanwhile, when animals and insects are impacted by different climate factors, Dr. Chin-Hong says that's when these diseases that reside within them spread to us.

This is true in the case of monkeypox.

"It's not a disease of humans, it's a disease of small animals and mammals," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "And it can have a big distribution change based on how animals are changing in where they live - what's hospitable, what's not hospitable."

And that pattern of moving for better climate can impact humans as well.

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Dr. Chin-Hong says since the Bay Area region is so densely populated due to our desirable climate, COVID has even been able to spread easier.

He says this study is another wake-up call to take climate change seriously.

"We have to do all these things so that we can soften the blow," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "The blow is already happening. But what we can do is really mitigate the effects on our future generations and on our families and communities."


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