Climate change is already spreading disease

Climate change is already causing a large increase in tick-borne diseases among Americans, and scientists expect these and other maladies such as plague to keep getting worse over the decades to come as the planet warms. An article in The Revelator describing our current situation and projections points out that in Maine exploding populations of ticks have already caused cases of some diseases to multiply 30 times.

The interactive map above lets you look at projections of ten key diseases expected to worsen over time on a county-by-county basis. The darker the color, the worse the disease risk. The article quotes Daniel Brooks, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Nebraska:

The warmer the planet gets, the more pathogens and vectors from the tropics and subtropics are going to move into the temperate zones. Countries such as the United States tend to have a false sense of security, but vectors and pathogens don’t understand international boundaries. You can’t just put up a fence to keep them out.

In my state of Wisconsin, West Nile virus and meat allergies will get worse. The former is spread by infected mosquitoes, and their populations will be growing. The meat allergies are a result of tick bites. Wisconsin has the heaviest tick population outside the northeast. Lyme disease is among the rapidly growing risks residents face during the decades ahead, as the warming climate makes it easier for ticks to thrive.

About the author

David Backes

I have always been drawn to where the wild things are: the natural world around me, and the wilderness within. As a writer, speaker, and university professor, I have for decades focused on this combination of nature and the human spirit. In recent years, my spiritual journey has added another lens: social, environmental and intergenerational justice. Put it all together and you’ve got The Earth Keeper, a blog of integral ecology and the prophetic imagination. The Earth Keeper may at times make you feel hopeful or inspired; it may make you feel uncomfortable or defensive or even angry. I hope it often will be challenging, and always interesting.

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