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Diseases Spread With Climate Change

June 12, 2013
Environmental Protection

While TB continues to be an issue in UK cattle the effects of climate change have spread the disease to seals in the Arctic. It’s just one example of the spread of many diseases from Europe and elsewhere to the Arctic regions as the climate warms. In the past diseases have been unlikely to survive the sub zero temperatures in the Arctic circle but as the area heats up things are rapidly changing. Toxoplasma is now being found in Polar Bears in Greenland, Giardia is affecting Musk Oxen in Canada and even West Nile Virus has been discovered in wolf pups.

Dr Claire Heffernan senior fellow at the Smith School for Enterprise and the Environment in Oxford believes that changes in the way we look at the spread of such diseases need to be made; “The point is no one is really joining up the dots between climate change and the spread of disease. There’s a whole new disease transmission cycle appearing in the Arctic which we just don’t understand.” The region plays a vital role in the migration patterns of many species and as Dr Heffernan points out its not just one way traffic. “The Arctic is like a Heathrow airport in terms of bird, seal and other migration patterns so that’s another way disease is easily spread, the disease pathway is not all one way – they can also be transmitted from the Arctic to elsewhere in the world.”

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