October 9, 2008

Climate Change Increasing Disease Risk

Conservationists meeting in Spain outlined 12 deadly diseases that could spread into new regions because of global warming.

The list of pathogens includes diseases such as avian influenza, Ebola, cholera, and tuberculosis. The Wildlife Conservation Society said the diseases -- dubbed the "Deadly Dozen" -- are examples of illnesses that could spread as a result of changes in temperatures and precipitation levels.

The report was released Tuesday at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature conference in Barcelona, The Times of London reported Wednesday.

"The term 'climate change' conjures images of melting ice caps and rising sea levels that threaten coastal cities and nations, but just as important is how increasing temperatures and fluctuating precipitation levels will change the distribution of dangerous pathogens," Steven E. Sanderson, head of the society, said in a statement.

Sanderson said even minor disturbances in ecosystems "can have far reaching consequences" on the diseases that animals encounter and can spread.