Zika Apocalypse?

By Melanie Stewart

Back in December it was unlikely that most of us had heard of the Zika virus.  Barely 2 months later, it has become a household term and the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency.

We now know there was an outbreak of Zika in Brazil, and that it’s transmitted by mosquitoes.  In addition to making people ill, it appears to be causing microcephaly, a birth defect resulting in developmental and intellectual disabilities, hearing and vision problems, and seizures.  This virus will adversely affect these children and their families for the rest of their lives.

You might wonder why this is a LiveGreen topic.

Zika has been added to a growing list of diseases that have likely seen an increase in transmission due to warmer temperatures.  The mosquitoes and bacteria responsible cannot survive in cool climates; but their range increases

as temperatures rise.

Dr. Ali Khan, MD, MPH and Dean of UNMC’s College of Public Health made a presentation as part of UNL’s study into local impacts from climate change.  It’s eye-opening and frightening, but don’t let that stop you from looking at it; it’s thorough, easy to read, and directly pertains to what we do.

Tropical pathogens are showing up in oysters caught in Seattle, frogs are dying, there are increases in methylmercury; incidents of West Nile, Malaria, and toxic algae blooms have increased. Lyme disease is spreading rapidly (as seen in the picture above) and there is potential for an additional 2 billion people to be exposed to Dengue.  And that doesn’t include people dying from extreme heat, violence related to the above issues, or the increasing number of major storms.

So what can we do?

Everything we do to slow climate change helps.  While all of the Med Center’s sustainable decisions have to meet our triple bottom line of helping people and the planet while making financial sense, this is directly tied to health and our mission.  Each time you turn off lights as you leave your office, close your blinds on a hot day, power down your computer at night, and TravelSmart to work, you a making a positive choice.  Not only do you save energy and help provide cleaner air for everyone to breathe, you are slowing the effects of climate change which helps to slow the spread of tropical diseases.

Thank you for ALL you do to save lives.


For more information, see these resources:

Dr. Khan’s presentation on Climate Change and Health

Dr. Khan’s (and others) video presentations

Dr. Donald Wilhite’s presentation on Climate Change Implications for Nebraska

UNL’s Report: Understanding and Assessing Climate Change, Implications for Nebraska

UNL’s Summary Report from Roundtable Discussions

Additional Presentations from UNL’s roundtable discussions

Climate Change Implications for Nebraska Project Page

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