Climate Change and Infectious Diseases - Mihael Gubas

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

Although climate change is causing the spread of infectious diseases is publicly and widely available, it is by no means rooted in the perception of the general public. Master students of the Erasmus Mundus International Scholarship conducted a study that had a global impact and showed that 48.9 percent of the surveyed population is not aware of the causality of climate change and infectious diseases.

The spread of certain infectious diseases is being changed by processes related to global warming and environmental anomalies, writes viruses and pathogens." Understanding the impact of climate variability on infectious disease transmission is important for both researchers and the general public. Much work has been done in recent years to raise awareness of climate change. However, they're still a general lack of understanding of the causal relationship between climate change and infectious diseases.

Students researched under the Université de Tours' mentorship, then the University of Alabama at Birmingham (USA) and Hannover Medical School. The peer-reviewed, open-source journal PLOS ONE, where the study was originally published. It was based on a multinational cross-sectional survey examining knowledge about the effects of climate change on the occurrence of infectious diseases over a total of 458 participants from around the world.

The results reveal a lack of knowledge in the general public. A total of 48.9 percent of participants had never previously considered the effects of climate change on infectious diseases. This percentage drops to 38.4 percent among those solid in the natural sciences and rises to 59.2 percent among those working in non-science sectors. Despite the sectoral difference, the research also showed that knowledge and awareness of climate change are not related to participants' educational level, as most respondents had either a bachelor's or master's degree, and given that in recent years the scientific dissemination of environmental topics has greatly increased.

Just over 84 percent of respondents believe that climate change has already caused the damage to human health it can cause, while only 28 percent believe that global warming has not yet affected people but will in the future. Given the coronavirus and numerous other studies on climate change's health cost, these are devastating numbers. The majority (70 percent) still think that climate change somehow affects infectious diseases, and only 6 percent of them think that it does not affect it in any way. The majority of respondents (75 percent) recognized that weather extremes could encourage the spread of infectious diseases, just as most (80 percent) recognized that floods and other phenomena could encourage the spread of infectious diseases. Therefore, the catch of this research lies in the fact that respondents understand the causes of the spread of disease and the causes of climate change but do not classify floods that cause diseases in the category of "consequences of climate change". Therefore, it is not so much a lack of concrete information, but a lack of comprehensive knowledge, an interpretive framework, i.e., it is a lack of understanding of this dynamic. A lack of information is seen among those 22.9 percent of respondents who said climate change could reduce infectious disease transmission.

The study also found that awareness of climate change is more pronounced in the general public than awareness of infectious diseases. This is interpreted by the presence of both topics in the media. While the damage of climate change has been continuously warned in recent years, we have witnessed that few people in the media were willing to categorize coronavirus's appearance as a direct consequence of climate change.

Interestingly, research has shown that the "West" (Europe) has a greater awareness of climate change than infectious diseases, while the "East" (Asia) has the opposite. The US stands between these two continents with roughly equal ignorance in both fields. The difference is explained by cultural distinction. While respondents from "Eastern" countries had less fear of tropical infectious diseases (malaria, mosquitoes, etc.) and greater fear of climate change, those from "Western" countries had a greater fear of tropical diseases and less than climate change. The emergence of this cultural difference, the researchers, explained by different media campaigns topics to raise awareness: in the west about the climate, in the east about infectious diseases transmitted by animals. The material difference found in previous surveys also seems to be interpreted in this study. Data are mentioned that 90 percent of households in Yemen were informed about dengue symptoms, while in Bangladesh, only 19 percent of households had sufficient knowledge about the same disease.

The researchers concluded that it is important to develop knowledge and understanding of these topics in the general population to reduce knowledge gaps in both the general population and health professionals. It is important to develop this understanding to take more seriously both the remediation of climate change and the serious approach to the protection and reduction of the risk of communicable disease transmission.

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