Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What will our future illnesses be like?

Usually, I pride myself on being a very healthy person. I eat well, exercise and generally take good care of myself. My immune system has always been very good at its job. Cold and flu season can pass me by without a single cough...until recently. My mother went to a holiday party a few days ago and 10 out of 15 people at the party got sick. I'm not talking about a little cough. It's full on vomiting and diarrhea for several days. I thought I was going to have to take her to the hospital. Apparently the same illness has been spreading through the local colleges. So in my mother's case, the Health Department ruled that the food preparer had the illness and then contaminated the holiday party food. Unfortunately for me, since I've been caring for my mother during her sickness and I ended up getting it as well. It has a very inconvenient incubation period too. I was walking around for about three or four days after my mother became sick before I even felt anything. Think of how many people I unknowingly infected? It's upsetting to think that I could be ruining peoples' holidays.

So what does this have to do with climate change you ask? Last night I was lying, uncomfortably, in bed pondering what to write about when the words of an acquaintance of mine, who's a nurse, ran through my head about how this stomach bug gets worse every year. She said that this particular strain just keeps getting stronger and making more people sick with each passing year. Then I thought about the chytrid fungus in amphibians and how it's wiping out entire amphibian populations and climate change is certainly playing a major role in its spread. (Yes, my mind really is this scattered.). Are we facing a future where climate change will play a major role in the spread of every bacterial, fungal, viral disease? Nevertheless, if there is an ideal incubation temperature for diseases and we are bringing the atmosphere closer to that ideal, aren't we in big trouble? Can I count on being sick with this horrible stomach bug every year because it's being aided by climate change? And can I count on the symptoms being more horrendous with each passing year? It's just a hazy passing thought...

1 comment:

Elliott Harvell said...

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