Volume 4, Number 1—March 1998
Workshop on Climate Change and Vector-Borne and Other Infectious Diseases
Climate changes may affect human health through a myriad of pathways; of particular interest are pathways affecting the geographic ranges and incidence of vector- and water-borne diseases. As society chooses how to deal with projections of long-term climate change, decisions must be based on scientific knowledge. A 2-day workshop1 was convened in September 1997 to discuss what is known about the relationship between projected climate changes and the incidence of water-borne diseases (e.g., cholera) and vector-borne diseases, including those typically considered tropical (malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and schistosomiasis), plus subtropical or temperate-zone diseases whose vectors are likely to be affected by projected climate changes.
The workshop participants discussed the systems involved in potential climate changes, from the global ocean-atmosphere-landmass system that drives climate to the regional ecologic and human socioeconomic systems where disease dynamics occur. These systems are extremely complex, as are the interactions among them, which underscores the need for more research before accurate projections can be made. Major research gaps were identified, and an agenda was framed for a sound scientific basis for public policy debates and decisions. The proposed agenda included the following items: climate modeling; ecosystem and habitat dynamics; disease surveillance; technologies for disease prevention and mitigation; disease transmission dynamics; data sets for empirical studies; integrated assessments; and detecting, understanding, and responding to unexpected events. Further discussion and implementation of this research agenda is encouraged. A summary of the workshop is available from the Electric Power Research Institute, TR-109516, EPRI Distribution Center, 207 Coggins Drive, P.O. Box 23205, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523; Telephone: 510-934-4212.
1The workshop was commissioned by the Electric Power Research Institute, with additional sponsorship from the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The workshop was organized and conducted by the Washington Advisory Group. The 28 participants included representatives from agencies and institutions that conduct or fund research and experts in the fields of climatology and global climate modeling, public health, and the biology and ecology of vectors, pathogens, and the ecosystems they inhabit.