Nobody likes getting sick. However, climate change, like higher temperatures, heavier rainfall and higher humidity, is already a given, and diseases highly sensitive to such changes would likely increase over time.
Climate change might also make the environment more suitable for diseases to spread, not only among individuals of the same species, but also across species (known as zoonotic diseases). In fact, 70% of the emerging diseases today, like ebola, A(H1N1) (‘swine flu’) and avian influenza (‘bird flu’), have been transferred from animals to humans. Such diseases threaten not only agricultural and food production, but also human lives as well.
A better understanding of how diseases are linked to climate change is needed. “We need more information on climate-sensitive zoonotic diseases to improve healthcare,” said Dr Hu Suk Lee of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).
A team of researchers from ILRI and national climate, agricultural and health (human, animal and plant) institutes, is developing forecasting systems in Vietnam for three climate-sensitive zoonotic diseases, Japanese encephalitis, leptospirosis and aflatoxin-associated diseases. Titled, “Pestforecast: Surveillance and early-warning systems for climate-sensitive diseases in Vietnam”, the four-year project which started in 2015, is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in Southeast Asia.