The ethical dimensions of environmental issues are extending day by day. Environment- which is dispatching the life of innocent people through the Virus. We don’t have direct evidence that climate change is influencing the spread of COVID-19 & Hantavirus but we do know that climate change alters how we relate to other species on Earth and that matters to our health and our risk for infections.
Given what we know now, it is likely that people who are exposed to more air pollution and who smoke are going to fare worse if infected with COVID-19 than those who are breathing cleaner air, and who don’t smoke. Air pollution is strongly associated with people’s risk of getting pneumonia and other respiratory infections and with getting sicker when they do get pneumonia. A study done on SARS, a virus closely related to COVID, found that people who breathed dirtier air were about twice as likely to die from the infection.
I think that we are likely to see infectious disease spread as a result of climate change. Climate change has already made conditions more favorable to the spread of some infectious diseases, including Lyme disease, waterborne diseases such as Vibrio parahaemolyticus which causes vomiting and diarrhea, and mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.
Future risks are not easy to foretell, but climate change hits hard on several fronts that matter to when and where pathogens appear, including temperature and rainfall patterns. To help limit the risk of infectious diseases, we should do all we can to vastly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
Why are emerging infectious diseases on the rise? We have seen a trend of greater emergence of infectious diseases in recent decades. Most of these diseases have entered into people from animals, especially wild animals. This trend has many causes. We have massive concentrations of domesticated animals around the world, some of which can be home to pathogens, like the flu, that can make people sick. We also have massive concentrations of people in cities where diseases transmitted by sneezing may find fertile ground. And we have the ability to travel around the globe in less than a day and share germs widely.
But a look at the origins of COVID reveals that other forces may be in play. In the past century we have escalated our demands upon nature, such that today, we are losing species at a rate unknown since the dinosaurs, along with half of life on earth, went extinct 65 million years ago. This rapid dismantling of life on earth owes primarily to habitat loss, which occurs mostly from growing crops and raising livestock for people. With fewer places to live and fewer food sources to feed on, animals find food and shelter where people are, and that can lead to disease spread.
Another major cause of species loss is climate change, which can also change where animals and plants live and affect where diseases may occur. Historically, we have grown as a species in partnership with the plants and animals we live with. So, when we change the rules of the game by drastically changing the climate and life on earth, we have to expect that it will affect our health.
New Members of the Genus: Unlike coronavirus, whose symptoms include cough, fever and breathing difficulties, leads to fatigue and muscle aches, as well as headaches- this is called Hantavirus. Chinese daily The Global Times said a person from southwestern Yunnan province passed away after contracting the virus. As the coronavirus pandemic slows down in China, one person has died in the country from hantavirus, another infectious disease, local media reported on 24March,2020. The viral disease was first reported in the U.S. in 1993. It is transmitted to humans by rodents such as mice and rats. No human-to-human transmission of this virus has been found except for Argentina in 1996 when it was suggested that “strains of hantaviruses in South America may be transmissible from person to person,” according to U.S.-based center for Disease Control and Prevention.
A recent prospective study showed that viral RNA could be detected in peripheral blood cells for up to 2 weeks before the onset of symptoms or the appearance of anti-hantavirus antibodies and the infectious virus was isolated from a seronegative, asymptomatic child 2 days before he developed hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HCPS). Thus, the virus could be spread by asymptomatic patients to other parts of the world. However, the currently accepted opinion is that, should such a situation arise, an influenza-like pandemic scenario is highly unlikely because human-to-human transmission virus appears to be very inefficient, occurs mainly within households, and requires relatively intimate interpersonal contact. The MayoClinic blog states that treatment for Hantavirus is limited but early prognosis and hospitalization improves chances.
Increasing intensity and frequency of extreme climatic events represent extremely important contributory factors in the context of climate change and its impact on hantavirus disease in humans. Furthermore, the indirect effects on rodents, and thus the risk of human exposure to hantaviruses, can be attributed to changes in human behavior. For example, changing agricultural practices, human population movements, deforestation, re-afforestation, land reclamation, irrigation projects, etc. all might create conditions that increase the risk of human exposure to hantaviruses. Additionally, contact rates with as yet unidentified hantaviruses may also increase. This could be particularly pronounced in Africa because it is now recognized that hantaviruses are abundant in Africa and there is an enormous diversity of African rodents and insectivores. It is possible for such viruses to be transmitted to humans through a rodent’s urine, saliva or fasces, through this is rare.
We can take actions to prevent future outbreaks. We can make many smart investments to avert another outbreak. Federal, state, and local agencies can support public health leadership and science, we can provide more funding for needed research, early response to outbreaks, and supplies for testing. And we can do much more to control the illegal wildlife trade.
We also need to take climate action to prevent the next pandemic like Hantavirus. For example, preventing deforestation—a root cause of climate change—can help stem biodiversity loss as well as slow animal migrations that can increase risk of infectious disease spread. The recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa probably occurred in part because bats, which carried the disease, had been forced to move into new habitats because the forests they used to live in had been cut down to grow palm oil trees.
To combat climate change, we need to drastically decrease our greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. Generating electricity from low-carbon energy sources like wind and solar decreases harmful air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide that lead to more heart attacks and stroke as well as obesity, diabetes, and premature deaths that put further strains on our health care systems. Reducing air pollution also helps keep our lungs healthy, which can protect us from respiratory infections like coronavirus. When COVID-19 eases, and we are ready to restart our economy, we can make our workforce healthier and more climate-resilient through scaling-up our investments in low-carbon technologies.
Climate change and global health policy are largely treated as separate issues by the public and media. Do we need to adjust our thinking? Yes. The separation of health and environmental policy is a dangerous delusion. Our health entirely depends on the climate and the other organisms we share the planet with. We need to bring these communities together. Some progress has been made in addressing the risk of pathogen spillover from animals into people. But largely we still view the environment, and life on earth, as separate. We can and must do better if we want to prevent the next infectious pandemic. That means we must combat climate change and do far more to safeguard the diversity of life on earth.
Mir Maksura Hossain
Student, Department of Environmental Science & Disaster Management
Noakhali Science & Technology University