Climate change is fuelling a rise in infectious diseases according to Professor Luke O’Neill.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, the Trinity professor said a new study has found that 218 infectious diseases have increased in incidence and severity.
The study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, finds that 218 of 275 (58%) infectious diseases studied have been aggravated by climate change.
It also notes that that 16% of the diseases have been alleviated by the rising global temperature.
“It is another thing to worry about sadly,” said Professor O’Neil.
“With climate change, we worry about you know, the ice caps melting and the forests all dying, well guess what? Infectious diseases are going up as well because of climate change.”
He said the “massive study” involved a review of 77,000 publications with researchers identifying ten ways climate change is leading to an increase in infectious diseases.
“Often we catch things from animals obviously, like the dreaded COVID from bats for instance,” he said.
“So bats are moving into new terrains because the climate is changing and it is warmer. The bat can live now somewhere else. It begins to live in that new areas and someone might catch it off the bat.
“Another one is Lyme Disease which is caused by a tick. These ticks live on little rodents. Then a tick bites you and the bacteria in the tick causes Lyme Disease, which is an awful disease, it’s like arthritis and it’s fatigue and all sorts of things.
“It is very hard to treat and you get long consequences of Lyme as well.”
He said the study found that Lyme Disease has now been detected in Nova Scotia – an area that we previously thought to be too cold for the ticks to thrive.
Professor O’Neill said mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, dengue and West Nile are also rising.
“The slightly increased temperatures mean the Mosquito is more active for longer in its life cycle,” he said.
“This study cites a paper showing that since the 50s, they are 39% more active. Now what does that mean? They’re living a bit longer, they’re more likely to be flying around I suppose and therefore transmitting more
“So, what we can conclude from that is you’ve doubled your risk of malaria in a way if those numbers hold up.
“That’s another reason why we may see an increase in these insect-borne diseases because the insects are more active because of global warming.”
He said the rise in infectious diseases will have an economic cost as well as a human cost – with COVID estimated to have cost the US trillions of dollars.
“It’s another reason then as if we needed one to slow down the global warming,” he said. “Because increasing temperatures mean increased infections and increased diseases.”
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