One area where we would expect to see impacts of a prolonged warming period would be in the incidence of infectious and/or vector borne diseases. And we do.
Because malaria is the poster child for infectious disease, and because considerable resources have been deployed in its containment, our very real progress in fighting malaria perhaps causes us to overlook the spread of other diseases. And some diseases that thrive in warmer weather are on the increase.
According to the WHO, “there were 214 million cases of malaria in 2015 and 438 000 deaths. Between 2000 and 2015, malaria incidence fell by 37% globally; during the same period, malaria mortality rates decreased by 60%. An estimated 6.2 million malaria deaths have been averted globally since 2000.”
The rest of the quotes in this post are taken from The Disease Daily and their report “Outbreaks in 2015: A Year in Review.”
“In recent years, dengue has spread rapidly across the globe, but 2015 has been explosive in terms of scale and quantity of outbreaks.” I live in Taiwan, where Dengue fever set records in number of cases this past year. Brazil had a bad year as well, with half a million cases. Not as bad as in 2013, when they had 1.5 million cases. “The disease was first recognized in Southeast Asia in the 1950s but as a result of exponential spread, over half of the world’s population is now at risk and the disease is endemic in over 100 countries.”
Remember that dengue was first recognized in Southeast Asia in 1950. Look at it today:
There was better news regarding Ebola, as the disease that ravaged parts of West Africa waned through the latter part of 2015.
Measles is considered one of the most contagious diseases in the world. In America, some parents didn’t have their children vaccinated and in some school districts measles broke out. Kinda stupid, that. “The outbreak that remained largely hidden from the spotlight, despite its unfathomable size and effects, is occurring in the Katanga province of southeast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) . The outbreak began in February but is attributed to a larger, ongoing epidemic starting in 2010 . This year’s outbreak has exploded to over 47,000 cases and resulted in over 500 deaths .” That’s just tragic.
“Chikungunya, a viral vectorborne disease, was first described in 1952 in Tanzania . Infection results in flu-like illness with pronounced arthralgias, and is difficult to clinically distinguish from dengue infection . Since its discovery in 1952, Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) has resulted in outbreaks in Africa, Asia and Europe . On 5 December 2013, the first autochthonous transmission of CHIKV was confirmed in the Americas, on the Caribbean island of St. Martin . Since then, over 1.7 million cases have been reported in the region  with 607,961 autochthonous cases reported this year .”
“Plague, otherwise known as Yersinia Pestis infection, remains endemic in three countries: Madagascar, Peru and the DRC . However, 2015 was a comeback year for plague in the United States, with 15 human infections and four deaths . The United States averages seven cases of plague reported each year, but there have been other years with high case counts – in 2006 there were 17 human infections . The uptick in cases in the United States this year is suggested to be linked to El Nino and precipitation rates, lush vegetation and a burgeoning rodent population which hosts the Yersinia Pestis-transmitting fleas.”
It would appear to this lay observer that having 15 of the hottest 16 years on record during this century has coincided with an increase of vector born and infectious disease, something that should trouble us. I wonder what would have happened to the incidence of malaria if Bill and Melinda Gates hadn’t devoted so much energy to its eradication.
In any event, this should stay on the minds of those of us who, like me, feel that climate activists have exaggerated the threat of climate change. And as we are the ones who say that fighting climate change redirects resources that could be better used to help the developing world, here’s an opportunity for us to put our money where our mouths are.