Environmental change linked to spread of infectious diseases

If the catastrophic flooding, drought, and weather-related calamities associated with global warming don’t kill you, exotic infectious diseases might step up to do the job, a new report released by the U.N. suggests. It found that changes to the environment — such as deforestation, urban growth, mining, and pollution of coastal waters — may be aiding the spread of infectious diseases, including ailments never before seen in humans. The report also suggests that global warming could be a major aggravating factor because rising temperatures and altered habitats could allow more diseases and their carriers to flourish. Climate change may also increase the number of environmental refugees moving to new areas and taking germs with them. The researchers noted a rise in the occurrence of dengue fever, found in only nine countries in the 1970s, but now present in more than 100. Other ailments scientists have linked to the environment include tuberculosis, bubonic plague, and cholera.