As climate change continues to disrupt our planet, experts warn of the potential health consequences. One overlooked threat is the resurgence of Yellow Fever—a historically deadly disease. The southern United States, with its rising sea levels and extreme weather events, is particularly vulnerable. Without proper preparation and response, we could face a public health crisis reminiscent of the past.
The Link Between Climate Change and Disease
Climate change is not only about rising temperatures and melting ice caps; it also affects our health. Rising sea levels and violent weather cycles impact access to clean water and expose concentrated urban populations to disease-carrying vectors. Migratory birds have already spread avian flu, and North America has seen novel infections like dengue, chikungunya, and Zika. Now, the southern United States is in the crosshairs.
The Threat of Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever, a disease that ravaged the United States in the past, is making a comeback. With rising sea levels and extreme weather events, southern coastal cities such as Galveston, Mobile, New Orleans, and Tampa are at risk. Brazil's experience from 2016 to 2019, where Yellow Fever cases tripled, serves as a warning. The disease is transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitos, which thrive in warmer and wetter conditions.
Are We Prepared?
Experts express concerns about our preparedness for a Yellow Fever outbreak. Dengue fever, another mosquito-borne disease, is already becoming endemic in southern coastal states due to inadequate mosquito eradication and prevention efforts. While there is an effective Yellow Fever vaccine, it is associated with rare but serious side effects, and vaccine skepticism post-Covid poses a significant barrier. Additionally, the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile does not currently have Yellow Fever vaccines available, and response capabilities for mass vaccination are limited.
A Harbinger of Future Challenges
The resurgence of Yellow Fever is a warning sign of the broader challenges we may face due to climate change. The Anthropocene Workgroup, a team of international climate scientists, emphasizes the need to address the harmful aspects of human activities on our planet. If we fail to do so, we risk further disruptions to planetary cycles and the emergence of additional health crises.
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