Health Report Lists 'Deadly Dozen' Potential-Impact Pathogens

Health experts from the Wildlife Conservation Society has released a report that lists 12 pathogens that could spread into new regions as a result of climate change, with potential impacts to both human and wildlife health and global economies.

Titled "The Deadly Dozen: Wildlife Diseases in the Age of Climate Change," the new report provides examples of diseases that could spread as a result of changes in temperatures and precipitation levels. The best defense, according to the report's authors, is a good offense in the form of wildlife monitoring to detect how these diseases are moving so health professionals can learn and prepare to mitigate their impact. The report was released at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, held in Barcelona, Spain.

"The term 'climate change' conjures images of melting ice caps and rising sea levels that threaten coastal cities and nations, but just as important is how increasing temperatures and fluctuating precipitation levels will change the distribution of dangerous pathogens,” said Dr. Steven E. Sanderson, president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society. "The health of wild animals is tightly linked to the ecosystems in which they live and influenced by the environment surrounding them, and even minor disturbances can have far reaching consequences on what diseases they might encounter and transmit as climate changes. Monitoring wildlife health will help us predict where those trouble spots will occur and plan how to prepare."

The "Deadly Dozen" list--including such diseases as avian influenza, Ebola, cholera, and tuberculosis--is illustrative only of the broad range of infectious diseases that threaten humans and animals. It builds upon the recommendations included in a recently published paper titled "Wildlife Health as an Indicator of Climate Change," which appears in a newly released book, Global Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events: Understanding the Contributions to Infectious Disease Emergence, published by the National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine. The study examines the nuts and bolts of deleterious impacts of climate change on the health of wild animals and the cascading effects on human populations.

WCS's Global Health Programs currently leads an international consortium that helps to monitor the movements of avian influenza through wild bird populations around the world. The GAINS program (Global Avian Influenza Network for Surveillance) was created in 2006 with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and now involves dozens of private and public partners that monitor wild bird populations for avian influenza around the world.

For more information, go to www.wcs.org.

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