Characteristics of Disease

Public health: Climate Change Report Canaian Medical Journal 11/03/08 V178

Climate change will increase the risk of infectious disease by expanding the ranges of species
known to carry zoonotic diseases, changing pathogen dynamics in environmental reservoirs and altering pathogen transmission cycles. How should the medical and public health communities prepare for such threats? As a first step, agencies must have the ability to measure changes in disease burden.


Key points of the article
  • Global climate change is occurring as a result of greenhouse gases created by human activities.

  • Changes in climate and associated changes in weather and other environmental exposures will have important consequences for human health.

  • Climate change will alter the relations between microbes, insect vectors, animal reservoirs of infectious diseases and humans, and will alter the burden and distribution of infectious diseases of public health importance.

  • Warmer temperatures and altered rainfall patterns are likely to increase the range and burden of vector-borne infectious diseases everywhere

  • Altered patterns of rainfall and increased frequency of extreme weather events are likely to influence the incidence of water-borne gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases globally
  • The best defence against increases in infectious disease burden related to climate change lies in strengthening existing public health infrastructure. Physicians, as opinion leaders, can also influence public policy related to greenhouse gas emissions. Ostensibly, in the wide ranging and unpredictable health effects that are likely to result from climate change highlight the need for strengthening public health infrastructure related to disease surveillance, food and water safety, control of insect vectors and animal reservoirs of disease, and public health outbreak response.
  • Increased pathogen growth
  • Increased pathogen survival

  • Increased spread of pathogen-water run-off
  • More nutrients in the environment-increased pathogen growth and density
Example: cryptosporidium


Although mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions cannot be regarded as the primary responsibility of the health care system or medical practitioners, physicians and other health care providers are highly credible opinion leaders and advocacy on environmental issues can be seen as a natural extension of the medical profession's interest in enhancing the health of the communities it serves.

Nunavut and TB epidemic indigenous societies (inuits of Baffin region)