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Climate change and epidemic outbreaks - prevention is in respecting the environment

Epidemic outbreaks are getting more and more frequent even if sanitary conditions have improved all around the world

In the last century distances between nations have become shorter and shorter; this can be traced back to economic development which led to forging commercial links, as well as to progress in the transportation department not only of goods but also of people. Very often globalisation is seen as the “guilty” party of the more frequent manifestation of epidemic outbreaks that, without a network of exchanges, would not happen. The truth is that globalisation has little to do with the origin and possibility of infections, even if it plays a fundamental role in their diffusion and transmission. 

Environmental changes, including climate, are the causes of the re-emergence and the epidemic potential of various infectious diseases. In some cases, the connections are relatively simple, such as the exposure of human populations and other biological traits to unknown or harmless pathogens because they are normally unreachable. In other cases, the connections are much more confusing, such as migration, ecological disorders, drug resistance, rare cases of double infection and malnutrition. These sanitary challenges are more and more recurring, such as SARS-Cov, Avian flu, MERS-Cov, Ebola, Swine flu and Coronavirus all happened in the last twenty years, are driving innovative responses that involve emerging technologies, as well as new systematic approaches to the process that open new ways for diagnostic research and preventive measures.

Some simple cases that link climate change with a higher frequency of infectious diseases are:

  • · Manifestation of extreme events and natural catastrophes (including heat waves, tempests, floods);
  • · Environmental changes regarding the relocation of fauna such as deforestation;
  • · Foodborne diseases;
  • · Urbanisation and cementation;
  • · Waterborne diseases due to contamination hazards of groundwater;
  • · Neglected and emerging diseases.

The recognition that the health of people,  of wild and domestic animals and of the environment are closely interlinked in an interdisciplinary approach is an essential starting point for addressing these problems.

A research carried out by the Environmental Foundation for Africa during the manifestation of the 2015 Ebola virus, show that the destruction of forests intensifies the risk of transmission of the virus from animals to humans and also of all the other animal-borne diseases. According to the research, the continuous crumbling of the forests in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone contributed to the spread of the virus in the region because, when a forest is cut down, there are 75% more possibilities of interaction between animals and humans.

At an official launch in Monrovia, Tommy Garnett, executive director of the EFA, said that his organisation has worked in the environmental sector in Africa since the outbreak of the epidemic until today, creating awareness of the environmental problems West Africa is facing. EFA has worked in partnership with economic development actors, indicating that it is able to understand how various development activities have helped to improve or undermine the environment. The organisation also stressed the need for every economic activity to have a strong environmental protection component, to ensure that citizens' lives are not endangered every time development is implemented in economic terms.

"If there had been a strong environmental protection component in most departments, many factories would not be where they are now because most of the chemicals that they use have an impact on the environment and affect people's health" Garnett said.

The relationship between the spread of Ebola virus infections and deforestation recommends the integration of natural resource and environmental management as key elements for socio-economic development.

The report also suggests that policy-makers should have a precautionary approach to economic recovery plans as to reduce the risk of future outbreaks. This research was carried out by EFA with the aid of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Garnett said that at the height of the Ebola crisis many people lost their lives, while the survivors, especially those of forestry countries, decided to take a closer look at the forest area. This was to see to what extent the fragmentation was creating a region for bats from which they were expected to be able to transmit EVD to human beings.

At the same time, ERUM's Global Manager said that the result of the three new Ebola outbreaks in 3 different countries was the response of bats to fragmented forest landscapes, indicating that under such conditions. it is possible that several species of bats, other animals and humans who would not normally be in contact, could have contact. The study also revealed that the results of the epidemic in the three affected countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, resulted in over 11,000 deaths, massive social disruption and billions of dollars lost in economic activity.

Climate change refers to long-term changes in weather conditions and patterns of extreme weather events. This can lead to radical changes in the microbiologic habitat which in turn can result in a threat to human health, multiplying existing health problems. As an active agent, human beings can control the related health effects of climate change by taking proactive measures, including a better understanding of climate change patterns and health effects, as well as effective allocation of technologies and resources to promote healthy lifestyles and public awareness.


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  • L'Autore

    Andrea Radaelli

    Andrea Radaelli, nato il 20 ottobre 1997, caporedattore del progetto 'Tecnologia ed Innovazione' mi considero un soggetto particolarmente vivace e interessato a come funziona il mondo. L’aggettivo che più spesso hanno utilizzato i miei parenti, i miei amici e le persone che mi stanno accanto per descrivermi è senza dubbio ‘curioso’.

    Curioso del mondo, di come funziona e dei nostri effetti su di esso. Non solo in campo scientifico ma anche economico e geopolitico. Mi interesso di tutto ciò che ha un outcome positivo e propositivo, soprattutto nella sanità e nelle nuove tecnologie.

    Curioso per le mie opinioni molto forti e per certi aspetti critiche sulla società, che a volte diventano i miei limiti. Alcune di queste sono che la conoscenza è faticosa ma rende liberi, che l’ignoranza nell’era dell’informazione è una scelta consapevole e che l’uguaglianza (dare alle persone le stesse cose) è un paradigma da superare con l’equità (dare alle persone le stesse opportunità).

    Curioso anche per la mia personalità; ho delle idee molto ben determinate, sono un convinto ‘individualista sociale’. Cioè che ognuno di noi deve prima crescere e acculturarsi secondo le proprie inclinazioni per poi poter entrare in un gruppo di lavoro per poterlo arricchire della sua prospettiva.

    Curioso per le mie scelte, dopo le medie ho scelto un liceo ad indirizzo artistico nonostante i miei professori spingessero per un liceo classico. Durante questi cinque anni ho avuto modo di viaggiare per l’Italia e scoprire gli incredibili siti dell’UNESCO. Ho viaggiato anche in Europa nelle maggiori capitali e mi sono innamorato dell’Unione Europea. Ho compreso quanto siamo fortunati del far parte di comunità internazionale e delle straordinarie opportunità che offre. Finite le superiori, ho scelto di studiare lingue applicate all’ambito economico nel CdL di ‘Scienze per la Mediazione Linguistica e Culturale’, un’università ricca di diversità; di nazionalità diverse, di lingue diverse e di culture diverse. Tutta questa eterogeneità mi ha spinto a ricercare un percorso magistrale decisamente più strutturato ed innovativo; 'Data Science and Business Intelligence'. La scienza dei dati si compone di principi metodologici basati sul metodo scientifico e di tecniche multidisciplinari volte ad interpretare ed estrarre conoscenza dai dati attraverso l'analisi statistica.

    Di Mondo Internazionale mi ha colpito la potenzialità, la composizione giovane e il dinamismo. Le aree tematiche nel quale mi trovo a mio agio sono economia, sanità e innovazione. Il progetto di ‘Tecnologia ed Innovazione’ è quello con cui collaboro maggiormente e, soprattutto grazie alla pazienza dei miei collaboratori, mi trovo veramente bene.

    Andrea Radaelli, born on 20 October 1997, editor-in-chief of 'Technology and Innovation' project, I consider myself as a particularly lively person and interested in how the world works. The adjective that my relatives and my friends have used the most to describe me is undoubtedly 'curious'.

    Curious about the world, how it works and our effects on it. Not only in the scientific field but also in the economic and geopolitical field. I am interested in everything that has a positive and proactive outcome, especially in healthcare and new technologies.

    Curious for my very strong and, in some respects, critical views on society, which sometimes become my limitations. Some of these are that knowledge takes effort but is essential, that ignorance in the information age is a conscious choice and that equality (giving people the same things) is a paradigm to be overcome with fairness (give people the same opportunities).

    Also curious about my personality; I have very well-defined ideas, I am a convinced 'social individualist'. That is, each of us must first grow and acculturate according to their own tastes in order to be able to be a good team player in a work group in order to enrich it with new insights.

    Curious about my choices, after secondary school I chose an artistic high school despite my teachers pushing for a classical high school. During these five years I have had the opportunity to travel around Italy and discover its incredible UNESCO sites. I also traveled around Europe in the major capitals and fell in love with the European Union. I realized how fortunate we all are to be part of this international community and the extraordinary opportunities it offers. After graduating from high school, I chose to study languages ​​applied to economics, 'Sciences for Linguistic and Cultural Mediation', a university rich in diversity; of different nationalities, of different languages ​​and of different cultures. All this heterogeneity pushed me to seek a decidedly more structured and innovative master's path; 'Data Science and Business Intelligence'. Data science consists of methodological principles based on statistics, scientific method and multidisciplinary techniques aimed at interpreting and extracting knowledge from data through statistical analysis.

    I was struck by Mondo Internazionale's potential, young composition and dynamism. The thematic areas in which I am comfortable are economics, health and innovation. The 'Technology and Innovation' project is the one I collaborate with most and, thanks to the patience of my collaborators, I am really happy with it.

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