The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a warning to medical experts across the country to be on the lookout for the deadly and contagious Cryptoccocus gattii fungal infection.
At least 60 people in the Pacific Northwestern region of the US have already been diagnosed with the disease, which affects the lungs and nervous system and can take up to a year for symptoms to emerge. As it normally occurs in warmer climates such as Australia and southern regions of Asia and Africa, Dr. Ted Schettler, science director for the US-based Science and Environmental Health Network, explained that Cryptoccocal gattii’s presence in the northern US is an indicator of climate change affecting us now.
Dr. Ted Schettler – Science Director, Science & Environment Health Network (M): It has typically been thought to be confined primarily to tropical and sub-tropical regions.
So, its emergence in the Pacific Northwest of the United States is a bit unusual. And so my reaction to this report is that this could be a signal of infectious disease appearing in a new area precisely because of climate change.
VOICE: Dr. Schettler stated that although the current number of people infected is small, the illness is very dangerous, with fatalities in 33% of the cases. Meanwhile, other, more widespread diseases are also spreading due to rising global temperatures.
Dr. Ted Schettler (M): Many scientists have pointed out that we will see infectious diseases emerging in new areas as the climate changes and the ecology that will support certain infectious agents’ changes as well.
So we’ll see malaria showing up in new places, we’ll see dengue fever showing up in new places, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising that we would see fungal diseases showing up in new places as well.
So many people think that climate change is something that we start to worry about in 25 or 50 or 100 years. So we are seeing the effects of climate change right now, in various places of the world and this may be just one other manifestation of it.
VOICE: Our thanks US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for alerting the medical community to the threat of Cryptococcus gattii in colder climes, and to Dr. Schettler for helping us understand this data on disease in the context of climate change.
May we quickly recognize the increasing risks caused by an unbalanced climate and act to protect our families’ health and the planet. During a 2008 videoconference with our Association members in Washington, USA, Supreme Master Ching Hai cautioned about the spread of disease as a consequence of climate change, urging for everyone’s swift response to save the Earth.