It's the Weather for It

It is a British occupation to blame the weather for virtually everything, but there is one area at least where this might be with some justification – the increase in infectious disease worldwide! A Report has just been released by Jean-François Guégan (of the Institute for Development Research, Montpellier, France) examining the data on 332 human pathogens in 224 countries which shows that infectious disease is on the march.

Diseases long thought to be under control have been re-emerging and resurgent since 1990, and new diseases are increasing. These latter include: Guanarito virus (1991) and Sabia virus (1993) in South America; Hantavirus (1993) in the Western USA; SARS (2003) and Bird flu (2003) in China and SE Asia. The main resurging diseases are: Toxic E. coli (1992) in N America; Dengue Fever (1992) Australia; Diphtheria (1993) Turkey; Anthrax (1993) Florida; Ebola and Yellow Fever (1993) Central Africa; Cholera (1993) Bangladesh; Rift Valley and Nile Fever (1993) Egypt; Dengue (1993) S America; Cholera (1994) Russia; Pertussis (1993) Canada; Dengue (1993) Inter-America; Meningitis (1996) W Africa; Hantavirus (1997) Chile; Lassa Fever (1997) West Africa; Toxic E. coli (1997) UK; Pandemic cholera (1996) S America; and West Nile Virus (1999) East USA.

The major underlying cause for the spread of these diseases is the climate change. Some conditions flourish in drought, others through the heavy rains occurring when drought is broken. During dry periods ticks increase in quantity and predators (such as owls or snakes) are reduced. Thus the balance in nature which would control the circumstance surrounding the spread of disease is upset.

Other conditions occur as a result of flooding and subsequently unsafe drinking water, contaminated with sewage and various pathogens. An increase in the mosquito-borne Ross river virus in Australia has been shown to be linked with rainfall patterns in the area.

It should also be kept in mind that traveling to distant and exotic spots has also increased, hence there is a greater prospect of exposure to diseases previously encountered only by the few who ventured that far. With the UK weather being so unpredictable more people are heading for warmer climates. So the weather is to blame in more than one sense.

It is wise to prepare for most eventualities and to observe strict hygiene principles at all times. The preparation should include adequate travel insurance. Treatment can be quite expensive especially if it includes hospitalization. However, by taking simple precautions in most cases the worst can be avoided. Do not let fear put you off traveling, it's the weather for it!