are a plethora of diseases out there. Diseases we don’t know about.
Diseases locked away in far-off, rarefied corners of the world.
Diseases that operate in small niche jungle environments. Diseases
that live in only cave systems or within a single species. Diseases
that were locked away millions of years ago in the now-thawing ice.
Diseases that, if given a vector — or a means to travel outside of
their little rarefied organic or environmental niches — can wreak
untold harm across wide spans of the globe.
with reported active Zika transmission. Until recently, Zika
flare-ups had been isolated to Central Africa and French Polynesia.
Now the virus is a global pandemic with World Health Organizations
authorities concerned infections could top 4 million. Image
was the case with the once humble Zika virus. Discovered in 1947 in
Central Africa, the disease first only existed in monkeys. The virus
took 7 years to make the leap into humans in 1954. But, at first,
symptoms were only mild and for most of the history of this disease
it was considered to be a less harmful form of the Dengue Fever Virus
— to which it is closely related. The virus, at first, appeared
only to result in fever, headaches, rash and back pain — if any
symptoms appeared at all. It would take much longer for the
devastating and horrific after-effects of an, at first, seemingly
harmless virus to begin to show up.
2007, when the virus began to grow to its current pandemic levels, it
was mostly isolated to Central Africa and a region of French
Polynesia in the Pacific. Both areas are among the warmest and
wettest in the world. Both featuring very large and persistent
populations of the kinds of mosquitoes most suited for the
transmission of this, now widely-feared, illness.
Issue of The Expanding Range of Disease Vectors
normal climate conditions, the ranges of these disease-bearing
insects would tend to remain rather stable. But that’s not the case
in the current world. Since 1880, the world has been warming and the
extents of disease vector mosquitoes has been expanding. Under the
current regime of 1 C temperature increase over the past 136 years,
Aedes aegypti — one of the chief transporters of the Zika virus —
has expanded its range on out of the tropics and into increasingly
Aedes aegypti distribution in 2015 — red indicates highest
frequency, blue indicates zero frequency. Aedes aegypti is a disease
vector for viruses like Dengue and Zika. As the globe has warmed,
their range has been expanding into ever higher Latitudes. Image
not only is the global extent of these disease carriers expanding —
so is their persistence in the regions into which they’d previously
occupied. Regions that may have seen only one or two weeks out of the
year in which female, Zika infected, mosquitoes were active may now
experience a month or two of exposure. And regions in which the
mosquito was active for only a few months may now see active,
disease-bearing populations for half of the year or more.
as if we decided to load up trillions of mosquitoes with what amounts
to biological live rounds and then gave them the ability to unload
that deadly ammunition over broader and broader expanses of the
globe. That’s basically what you get when you warm the world. An
expansion and global invasion of hitherto unknown illnesses spread
throughout the world by vectors like the mosquito.
Viral Explosion Occurs During Hottest Year on Record
to our tale of the Zika virus’s expansion during 2007 through 2016,
we find that Zika during this time-frame had leapt out of its
traditional 20th Century range and expanded coincident with the
spread of Aedes variety mosquitoes along the warming and moistening
climate bands. In 2007, the first leap outside of Central Africa and
French Polynesia occurred in Yap — a part of the Federated States
epidemic range then again expanded through 2014 into Easter Island,
broader Polynesia, the Cook Islands, and New Caledonia. The
geographic expansion of this illness along the Pacific Island chains
indicates that Zika’s increased virility likely sparked from the
French Polynesian strain and not from the strain in Africa.
in 2015, coordinate with the hottest global temperatures on record,
Zika leapt out of its Pacific Island basin environmental confines and
spread into Brazil and the Caribbean. The virus subsequently spread
through a broad section of Central and South America. As of
yesterday, travel warnings of possible exposure to the Zika virus
list of 22 countries:
Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French
Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique,
Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Samoa, Suriname,
New Climate Dystopia — We are Now Telling Women Not to Have
many viral fevers, Zika attacks the nervous systems of those it
infects. And though initial onset symptoms may seem mild, with up to
80 percent of those infected showing no symptoms at all, the virus
may cause severe longer-term damage to both the unborn and to
vulnerable individuals. For as infection rates for the virus
increased what were suspected to be related instances of a kind of
temporary paralysis called Guillian
Barre Syndrome and
a terrifying shrinking of the heads of unborn infants called
spike in microcephaly rates — a tragic shrinking of the heads of
unborn children as a result of viral damage to the nervous system —
among infants in regions of Zika virus outbreak has raised global
concerns about the virus’s ongoing impact. Most particularly, women
in an expanding number of countries are now being asked to refrain
from having children for months or even years. Image source: The
virus, which has no symptoms 80% of the time, is blamed for causing
stunted brain development in babies. About 3,500 cases of
microcephaly have been identified in Brazil so far. And medical staff
in Recife, a state capital in north-east Brazil, say they are
struggling to cope with at least 240 cases of microcephaly
in children.The city’s
Health Secretary, Jailson Correia, a specialist in tropical diseases,
told the BBC he and others needed “to fight very hard”.
are profoundly terrible impacts. Ones that were not initially
expected from a virus that at first seemed so innocuous. And it’s
this threat of Zika-spawned microcephaly among infants that is
spurring everything from travel warnings to the hitherto
unprecedented measure of some countries requesting that their human
populations take the extreme step of avoiding pregnancy.
of Monday authorities in Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, El Salvador and
Venezuela were urging women not to get pregnant. The pregnancy
moratorium — which is voluntary — ranges in duration from a few
months to two years in the case of El Salvador. And the reason for
the requested moratorium is sadly practical. Authorities in these
countries are now forced to choose between asking women to avoid
pregnancy or having their healthcare systems overwhelmed by infants
suffering from microcephaly.
a vaccine likely 10-12 years away for Zika, with 4 million cases
expected in the current outbreak, and with the range of Aedes type
mosquitoes who carry the virus continuing to expand on the back of a
human-forced warming of the globe, we are sadly just at the beginning
of this particular tragedy. An event that, as
Bill McKibben noted in The Guardian earlier this week,
has leapt fully into the realm of dystopia.
Profound Dislocation For Humankind
among infants is both tragic and terrifying. Its impact strikes at
the very heart of what it means to be a human being. If a virus,
driven to far-flung regions by the heating of the world through
fossil fuel burning, is able to cripple our children while still in
the womb, our sense of security is shattered as we witness
heart-breaking brutality. It’s the kind of thing so terrible it
couldn’t come from the human imagination. Which is why, when we
witness it, we experience a strange sense of dislocation. A surreal
sense that all is not right. Like the moment after the car hit the
telephone pole, the moment you’re still flying through the air
flung free of the vehicle. The moment just before the inevitable
impact with the pavement.
the impact, sadly, does come. Not only are we turning many of the
species of this world into climate orphans. Into creatures without a
safe space in which to live and thrive, we are also doing it to
ourselves. For the children of Zika are climate orphans too. The
tragic victims of an expanding range of environmental conditions that
are hazardous to human life. And Zika is but one example of the
deadly diseases, extreme weather, sea level rise, glacial collapse,
ocean death, and crop disruption we are now forcing upon the human
habitat. A habitat we are rendering less livable for ourselves and
pretty much everything else.
what terminal dislocation means — to be forceably ejected. To be
suddenly introduced into a very hostile environment in which
survival, and in this case reproduction, is suddenly a crap shoot.
For human beings, this is a profound dislocation. One that makes the
world we’re living in now seem all-too-alien. For we’re not
living in the world we are used to. And the one we’re making is
both terrible and tragic. And, in all honesty, we desperately need to
stop the damage before some other very big, or terrible, or essential
thing breaks free.
has been 67 cases of the Zika virus in New Zealand since 2002,
Ministry of Health figures show.
man is in hospital after nine New Zealanders were diagnosed with the
virus in 2016 after travelling travelling overseas.
most widespread outbreak of Zika virus in history began in April 2015
in Brazil. According to Ministry figures, there were nine cases of
the virus in New Zealand in 2015. This figure is provisional.
47-year-old man was admitted to Waikato Hospital with symptoms
indicative of Guillain-Barre, a condition linked to the virus, which
can cause paralysis. Most patients make a full recovery.
man travelled to Tonga and arrived back in New Zealand on January 15.