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Global Climate Change DigestArchives of the
Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999

FROM VOLUME 12, NUMBER 3, MARCH 1999

NEWS...
Health Effects of Extreme Weather


Item #d99mar39

In the Feb. 16, 1999, news story “Extreme Weather's Effect on Health Measured,” the Environmental News Network quoted Paul Epstein of Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment as saying, "If the primary manifestation of climate change is more severe and unstable weather, then we have begun to see firsthand how a changing climate impacts our health and the international economy." He said this as he and other scientists linked the past year's extreme weather to outbreaks of infectious diseases:

  • Large increases in the incidence of malaria, Rift Valley fever, and cholera in East Africa after extensive flooding;
  • Respiratory illnesses caused by prolonged drought-produced wildfires in Southeast Asia; and
  • Increased cholera, dengue fever, and malaria in Central America after Hurricane Mitch.

This correlation has spurred epidemiologists to track climate variability and related infectious disease outbreaks with such tools as satellite remote sensing and mathematical modeling. Epstein also voiced the hope that recognition of this link between extreme weather and disease will encourage medical professionals to initiate programs for preventing or minimizing such weather-related health problems.

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