Climate change and diseases

Climate change, a grave threat to life, is being combated globally through emissions reduction, renewable energy advocacy, and collaboration against emerging dangers.

The Mediterranean basin, an enclosed sea of fragile environment, is known to be vulnerable and very susceptible to global warming and today is now considered a focal point/hotspot for monitoring climate change. Recent accelerated climate changes have exacerbated existing environmental problems, caused by the combination of land use changes, increasing pollution and declining biodiversity, in the Mediterranean basin.

Climate change directly impacts health through long-term changes in rainfall and temperature, climatic extremes and multifaceted influences on food production systems and water resources. It has a direct impact on the dynamics of a subset of infectious diseases, including vector-borne diseases (VBDs), some water-borne diseases like cholera, and soil-borne and food-borne pathogens. Climate also has multiple indirect effects through socioeconomic factors as flooding can hamper disease control measures in place, including vector control.

Infectious VBDs are mainly transmitted by arthropod vectors, which are particularly sensitive to changes in climate. Arthropods are ectothermic, so their internal temperature is regulated by external environmental conditions. Their larval development stage generally requires the presence of bodies of water and/or specific humidity conditions. Vector biting rates tend to increase with temperature up to an upper threshold, after which they decrease. The development and replication of pathogens transmitted within vectors or in the environment also occurs faster at high temperatures. So vector development and survival is significantly affected by temperature conditions.

Several vector-borne diseases have emerged in recent decades: for instance West Nile Fever, Rift Vally Fever, Blue Tangue, Malaria, Dengue Fever, Chikungunya Fever, Leishmaniasis, Lyme Disease, Tick-borne encephalitis and Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF).

Concerns has been raised that the increase of those diseases will lead to an over-use of pesticides and veterinary drugs, especially in fisheries.

A proactive approach is key to the management of climate risks. Changes in management, technologies and infrastructure may be necessary to ensure animal production is resilient and is not affected by climate changes. There is a need for continual vigilance to improve detection, identification, and under-reporting of many pathogens.

The role of STOR-Remesa

  • Improve REMESA’s scientist and researcher experience and professionalism through proper training on recent methods to control and eradicate the climatic-sensitive pathogens.
  • Support improvement of diagnosis of VBD, particularly for North African countries, through periodical training in reference/expert laboratories.
  • Strengthen surveillance of VBD by launching international projects for scientific cooperation among REMESA member countries, through STOR-STC members.
  • STOR, through its STC, will gather and analyse data and information to identify knowledge gaps and understand and be prepared against emerged threats.
  • Localise, through pilot studies, the regions of intensive replication of those vectors for proper eradication.