Date: 24 Rabbi al-Thanni 1443   Monday 29 November 2021

  • Last Update: Monday 29 November 2021، 10:20:13.

Climate change could bring tropical disease epidemics to Britain, health expert warns

18:45 15 November 2015 Author :   The Staff

Epidemics of dengue fever and other tropical diseases could soon affect people in Britain because of global warming, one of the world’s leading medical experts has warned. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said he also believed the planet is already being affected by many other serious health threats triggered by climate change – including malnutrition and deaths from air pollution.

However, these dangers were not being given proper attention by world leaders, added Farrar, an expert on infectious diseases. Climate negotiators heading to Paris this month did not appear to have understood the widespread impact that global warming has already had on Earth. “I don’t think the health community has had a big enough input into climate talks,” Farrar told the Observer. “Bodies like the World Health Organisation have not made their voices heard.”

His stark warning adds another worrying dimension to the threat posed to human welfare by rising carbon emissions. Farrar, 53, worked for 18 years in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, researching potential human pandemics such as bird flu and Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Two years ago he was appointed director of the Wellcome Trust, and now argues that the health dangers posed by climate change have been seriously underestimated.

“When you talk about climate change to people in general, they think of loss of habitat, loss of ice caps or loss of coral reefs. They don’t think of its health impacts. But these affect us today, never mind affecting our children or our grandchildren. This is not some abstract threat; it is immediate and it is personal.”

Farrar sees three particular threats to the health and wellbeing of humanity: the spread of infectious diseases, the linked issues of pollution and urbanisation, and the threat of worsening migration. In the case of infectious disease, he dismissed the idea that malaria was the most obvious problem.

His real fear was dengue fever, a mosquito-borne viral disease that causes fever, headache, and – on occasions – dangerous drops in blood pressure. There is no known vaccine and no specific treatment. About 2.5% of cases prove fatal.

“Before 1970 only seven countries had experienced serious dengue outbreaks,” says Farrar. “Today it has taken hold in more than 100 countries. We have had outbreaks in Spain, Italy and Florida, and it is not unreasonable to think there will be dengue transmission in the southern UK in years to come. I am not saying it is coming overnight, but it wasn’t in Florida or Spain a couple of decades ago and it is starting to appear there. Other viral diseases, such as yellow fever and West Nile fever, may also follow suit.”

Rising global temperatures, humidity and spreading urbanisation are the specific drivers of the disease’s spread, added Farrar, because it is transmitted by the Aedes genus mosquito, which likes heat and has become urban-adapted. “Climate change – along with environmental change in general – is clearly implicated,” he said.

On its own, migration is not a threat to wellbeing, but its root cause – malnutrition – certainly does have health consequences. And in a world where sea levels are rising inexorably and rich coastal land is facing inundation, this presents another reason for worry.

Farrar cites the Mekong basin in Vietnam: “You would not be able to grow rice there any more if it is inundated – and that would be devastating. Vietnam is now one of the world’s largest exporters of rice. We could lose all of that – one of the world’s great food supplies.”

Such a loss would cause widespread malnutrition and trigger massive migration as waves of people left to find food elsewhere. “We have all been troubled by dreadful scenes of migration from Syria,” said Farrar. “But imagine that on a scale 10 times worse as people flee Dhaka or Jakarta or the Mekong delta. It is a real prospect.”

The problem is only worsened by the fact that the world’s population will have risen from seven billion to nine billion by the end of the century, an extra two billion who will have to be fed from threatened food sources.

Then there is the issue of worsening pollution. This is triggered not so much by climate change but the cause of global warming itself: the burning of fossil fuels both inside and outside the home, says Farrar. Cooking stoves that pump harmful gases into homes and filthy exhausts from cars and scooters in cities across Asia play a part in raising global temperatures because they raise carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. However, they also wreak havoc with public health.

“Pollution in the air causes between seven and eight million premature deaths a year,” said Farrar. “By contrast, malaria kills around 600,000 while HIV is responsible for between one and two million deaths a year. That is an incredible death toll.” He concluded: “I am sure there will be some sort of agreement coming out of the climate talks in Paris, but it will have to be followed up with real rigour. We will be in deep trouble if it is not.”

Infectious disease

One of the most worrying aspects of global warming is its likely impact on infectious diseases, in particular dengue fever, which risks infecting 128 countries and 3.9 billion people, more than half the world’s population. Although death rates are only around 2.5%, the disease affects so many people it represents a vast burden on the health services of affected countries. Spread by a mosquito that prefers warmer, more humid weather, and which has adapted to urban environments, dengue is now a major global health threat.


When compared with viruses such as HIV and diseases such as malaria, air pollution – both inside and outside the home – is a far greater killer of men and women. Much of this is the result of the inefficient combustion of solid fuels on inefficient stoves in poorly ventilated homes and the widespread use of cars. By promoting clean energy, these problems would be reduced while also helping to cut carbon emissions that are the cause of global warming.


Some of the world’s most important food-producing regions are near rivers or estuaries, including the Nile, the Ganges and the Mekong basin. Rising sea levels, which climate experts fear could reach half a metre to a metre by the end of the century, threaten these zones, in particular the Mekong in Vietnam, a nation that is one of the world’s main exporters of rice. If this production is disrupted or destroyed by inundations of salt sea water, the result could be starvation. This in turn could trigger mass migration and conflict.

The Guardian

Read 1536

Related News:


Partly Cloudy



Partly Cloudy

Humidity: 75%

Wind: 30.58 km/h

  • 04 Jan 2019

    Sunny 18°C 12°C

  • 05 Jan 2019

    Mostly Sunny 17°C 11°C

  • Most Popular
  • Most Commented