The "Deadly Dozen" Diseases Worsened by Climate Change (Part 3)

  • Click here to read Part 1 of this story (overview).
  • Click here to read Part 2 of this story (avian flu, babesiosis, cholera).

The following list includes pathogens that may spread as a result of global warming and changes in precipitation levels, according to a new report from the Wildlife Conservation Society. Monitoring efforts for these diseases must be examined in tandem with meteorological data to uncover climate-related trends.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium and is transmitted to humans through tick bites. Tick distributions will shift as a result of climate change, bringing Lyme disease into new regions to infect more animals and people.

While the disease’s effects on wildlife have not been documented, human-induced changes in the environment and on different species’ population patterns (i.e., the white-tailed deer, which can carry infective ticks)  greatly affect disease distribution. Monitoring of tick distributions will be necessary to assess the impacts of climate change on Lyme disease.

Intestinal and External Parasites

Parasites are widespread throughout terrestrial and aquatic environments. As temperatures and precipitation levels shift, parasites will increase in many areas, infecting a larger number of humans and animals.

Many species of parasites are zoonotic (spread between wildlife and humans). Baylisascaris procyonis, for example, is spread by the common raccoon and is deadly to many other wildlife species and humans. A close relative, Baylisascaris schroeder, causes death in its natural host, the critically endangered giant panda.

Monitoring of parasite species and loads in wildlife and livestock help us identify transmission of these infections between domestic and wild animals and humans.


The ebola hemorrhagic fever virus and its closely related cousin, the Marburg fever virus, easily kill humans, gorillas and chimpanzees—and there is currently no known cure. Scientists continue to work on finding the source of the disease and to develop vaccines for protection.

There is significant evidence that outbreaks of both diseases are related to unusual variations in rainfall/dry-season patterns. As climate change disrupts and exaggerates seasonal patterns, we may expect to see outbreaks of these deadly diseases occurring in new locations and with greater frequency.

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s work on ebola in Central Africa has been supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Tune in tomorrow to read Part 4 of this story.

Editor’s Note: publishes environmental news so organic consumers have access to the latest information on climate change and other threats. You can view similar posts by visiting the Environment Section of our blog.

Photo by James Gathany

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  • Margie  October 11, 2008 at 10:07 am

    I am concerned that spreading diseases and wild weather patterns are being blamed solely on Global Warming. I don’t think we really know whether or not to believe that the earth is permanently getting warmer due to emissions or even if it is warming at all. Let me explain….I’m not saying that there is absolutely no change in the climate or weather patterns but what I do want to bring out is that the disease plagues may be caused by genetic engineering where they can and do make vectors and microbes hardier to withstand climatic conditions which they were not able to tolerate before. If you will notice, this very real aspect is never mentioned in the media.

    Concerning all the natural disasters we have seen , involving hurricanes, earthquakes,tidal waves, floods and drought….governments do have the capabilities to influence and create these disasters. In the 1970s there was a UN Treaty called Covention on the Prohibition of Military or any other hostile use of Environmental Modification. They had the technology then to control the weather to some degree. Imagine what their capabilites are now. They even have tetonic weapons which can cause earthquakes and tidal waves as a result. If you want to learn more you could look up HAARP, Tetonic weapons, weather wars, weather modification and Weather as a Force Multiplier….Owning the Weather by 2025. This is a military document that you can find online. The fact that the possibility of these uncharacteristly severe storms being artificially created is never even mentioned in the media. I wonder why?

    I agree that we are trashing the environment and that we need to change. However, global warming is being used as an excuse for everything and they are trying to use it to promote World Government. Gorbachev said….The environment will be the cornerstone for the new wold order. In other words it will be the fear inducing factor to promote their agenda. This economic collapse is alo playing in with the timing of everything else. We need to protect our environment but we just need to be awar that we are not all pushed into accepting something we wouldn’t normally accept…due to created chaos which engenders fear

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