When it comes to problems caused by ticks, Lyme disease hogs a lot of the limelight. But various tick species carry and transmit a collection of other pathogens, some of which cause serious, even fatal, conditions.
In my career as apublic health entomologist, I’ve been amazed at the ability of ticks to bounce back from all the ways people try to control them, including with pesticides. Ticks excel at finding new ecological niches for survival. So people and ticks frequently cross paths, exposing us to their bites and the diseases they carry.
Here are some of the lesser-known, but growing, threats from ticks.
Ticks can spread bacterial diseases
Certain very small species of bacteria that can cause human diseases, such as rickettsia, ehrlichia and anaplasma, live in ticks. Ticks ingest these bacteria when they drink animals’ blood. Then when the ticks take a subsequent blood meal, they pass the bacteria along to the next animal or person they feed on.
‘……….By David Kirby has been a professional journalist for 25 years. His third book, Death at Seaworld, was published in 2012.
A new report has ditched the gloom-and-doom predictions about climate change in favor of a refreshingly positive message: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will make us healthier and save us a lot of money.
“Tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century,” concludes the report, released on Tuesday by the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change. It details the direct—and sometimes surprisingly indirect—effects of climate change, and how taking action to blunt those effects would help sustain and significantly improve human health.
The world must take immediate action to slash carbon pollution, the report stated, to keep the temperature gain between now and 2100 to less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
At the current rate of global carbon emissions, average temperatures will rise by as much as 4.7 to 8.6 F. by the end of the century. In these conditions climate change will become a medical emergency that “threatens to undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health,” the commission found.
So, Why Should You Care? Climate change is already harming human health directly by causing more extreme heat waves, as well as increasing floods, drought, and intense storms. Indirect impacts include increased air pollution, less secure food supplies, malnutrition, population displacement, and mental illnesses. Global warming–driven ecosystem changes and biodiversity loss are also causing the spread of infectious diseases such as Lyme disease, schistosomiasis, hantavirus, and West Nile virus into new parts of the world.
Coping with these impacts is expensive. The United States alone spent $14 billion in health-related costs from just six climate change–related events between 2002 and 2009, according to a 2011 study.
Curbing climate change by lowering fossil fuel pollution, however, would “reduce pressures on national health budgets,” the study noted, “delivering potentially large cost savings, and enable investments in stronger, more resilient health systems.”
It will be vital to figure out the economic benefits of “avoided burden of disease, reduced health-care costs, and enhanced economic productivity,” the commission stated, to calculate the true costs of not taking strong action to limit climate change.
Among the direct health benefits of cutting fossil fuel emissions, air pollutants that cause or worsen respiratory disease would decrease, the report stated, while conversion to “clean” stoves and fuels in the developing world “will not only protect the climate from black carbon, but also cut deaths from household air pollution—a major killer in low income countries,” the report said.
Steps to rein in climate change would also yield indirect benefits such as encouraging “active transportation,” such as bicycles, over fuel-burning vehicles. This would reduce obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and strokes, as well as injuries and deaths from motor vehicle traffic accidents, stated the report.
The commission offered 10 recommendations “to accelerate action in the next five years,” including more research on climate change and public health; phasing out coal-fired power to “reduce the health burden of particulate matter…thus yielding immediate gains for society”; encouraging cities to develop energy-efficient buildings and provide greater access to active transportation and green spaces; and reaching an international agreement to support less-developed countries in switching over to a low-carbon economy.
The steps that societies need to take to limit global warming won’t come easily, said John Filippelli, director of the Clean Air and Sustainability Division at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but they are achievable.
“I’ve been in the environmental business for 37 years and I’ve seen things get done,” Filippelli said during a briefing at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City about the report. “Lead was removed from gasoline and there was a dramatic improvement in the health of children.”
Likewise, an international agreement to curb use of fluorocarbons is successfully reducing the hole in the atmosphere’s ozone layer, he said, while U.S. regulations to cut the sulfur dioxide in power plant emissions have helped alleviate acid rain, saving millions of acres of forests.
“Of course, climate change is much bigger and it requires global action,” said Filippelli. “But what is the alternative?”