Climate Change Matters

There are still climate change deniers out there, and if you are one, I’d like to take a moment to annoy you with the following story:

Nearly 300 cases of chikungunya fever, a virus that previously has been common only in Africa and Asia, were reported in Italy – where only isolated cases of the disease had been seen in the past.

“We were quite surprised,” said Stefania Salmaso, director of Italy’s Center for Epidemiology at the National Health Institute. “Nobody was expecting that such an unusual event was going to happen.”

While the outbreak was largely the result of stronger trade and travel ties, some experts believe it is a sign of how global warming is creating new breeding grounds for diseases long confined to subtropical climates.

Officials at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said the particularly mild winter in Italy allowed mosquitoes to start breeding earlier than usual, giving the insect population a boost.

“This outbreak is most important as a warning signal,” said Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, a climate change expert at the World Health Organization. “Climate change affects the breeding of every mosquito on earth.”

More mosquitoes will mean more disease. With warmer temperatures in the future, Europe and North America might be hit by outbreaks of diseases usually confined to southern continents.

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