Friday, June 16, 2017

Climate Change Pushing Tropical Diseases Toward Arctic

[National Geographic] He'd gone for a swim in the Gulf of Mexico, whose warm waters, it turned out, would soon kill him. The 31-year-old man arrived at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas three days after his dip in the Atlantic. Crushing pain was radiating from his new calf tattoo—an image of hands clasping a cross along with the phrase "Jesus is my life." He had a fever, and dangerously low blood pressure. Black blisters appeared around his ankles. His kidneys and lungs began shutting down. Gangrenous tissue splotched his hips and toes. Within two months, he was dead.
The culprit, a meddlesome bacterium called Vibrio vulnificus, occurs naturally in warm ocean water. It can seep into scrapes or fresh wounds, including those from tattoo needlework. Infections like the one that killed this man in 2016 have appeared sporadically for years in warm seas from Texas to Maryland. But as greenhouse gases boost temperatures across the globe, rare pathogens like these from hotter parts of the planet are now creeping toward the poles, creating new risks for people. Deadly warm-water Vibrio illnesses are on the rise, now appearing even near the Arctic Circle.
"We are seeing lots of new hospitable areas opening up for these bacteria," says Craig Baker-Austin, a Vibrio expert who runs the United Kingdom's Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences laboratory in southern England. "Climate change is essentially driving this process, especially warming."
t's no secret that climate change can spread illnesses such as West Nile virus, Zika, and malaria, as rising temperatures push disease-carrying mosquitoes into new places, from the highlands of Ethiopia to the United States. But warm temperatures and shifting weather patterns work in subtle ways, too. Changes in precipitation, wind, or heat are shifting the threat posed by other human illnesses, from cholera to a rare freshwater brain-eating amoeba to rodent-driven infections like hantavirus. And the importance of all these changes are only growing more significant. Read More