In the coming decades, ecological degradation, rising temperatures, and extreme weather events could intensify the threats to human health posed by viruses. How will climate change affect the spread of infectious diseases? We investigate. We know from past epidemics that changes in temperature, rainfall, and humidity can have profound effects on the spread of infectious disease .
In the summer of 1878, for example, the southern United States was struck by a catastrophic outbreak of yellow fever, a viral disease indirectly transmitted between people via the mosquito Aedes aegypti .
Around 100,000 people contracted the disease, and up to 20,000 people lost their lives. Some estimates put the economic cost as high as $200m .
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Yellow fever was a regular scourge of cities in the lower Mississippi River basin in the 18th and 19th centuries.
“During its brief reign — July to October — its ravages were such as to completely paralyze both the social and commercial interests of a given city, and even an entire section of our country,” a U.S. Senate Report noted in 1911. Smoking gun
By 1911, improvements in rainwater storage and sanitation had denied the mosquito many of its former breeding grounds in open rain barrels and cisterns close to houses.But it would take until the end of the 20th century before scientists realized why outbreaks were so much worse in some years than others.Between 1793 and 1905, there were nine devastating yellow fever epidemics. Seven coincided with a major El Niño episode.El Niño is […]