Legarda Warns Climate Change’s Adverse Effect To Public Health

February 11, 2016

Alarmed by the imminent threat posed by the spread of the Zika virus, Senator Loren Legarda raised concerns that climate change may have fueled the outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease, which has been linked to birth defects and death of newborns in Latin America.

“As climate change alters rainfall patterns and brings deadly, intensified and frequent calamities, it will affect public health,” said Legarda, UNISDR Global Champion for Resilience and Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change.

Citing the World Health Organization (WHO), Legarda said that Aedes mosquitoes such as Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, known carriers of the Zika virus and dengue virus, are expected to thrive in a warmer climate and reproduce more quickly and bite more frequently at higher temperatures.

According to WHO, temperature increases of 2-3ºC would increase the number of people who, in climatic terms, are at risk of malaria by around 3- 5%, i.e. several hundred million.

For a more relatable scenario, in the Philippines the rising cases of dengue and malaria are related to climate change. In 1998, when the Philippines experienced El Niño, almost 40,000 dengue cases, 1,200 cholera cases and nearly 1,000 typhoid fever cases nationwide were recorded.

“The state of our health as human beings is under threat but it is not a death sentence—yet. We are alive and able to address the climate crisis. We can no longer deny the link between climate change and public health. As scientists, doctors and health workers act double time to limit the spread of the Zika virus and other vector-borne diseases, we must do our share by addressing the factors that contribute to the spread of these diseases,” Legarda concluded.

The WHO designated the Zika virus and its suspected complications in newborns as a public health emergency of international concern. The virus has alarmed public health officials in recent months because of its possible association with thousands of suspected cases of brain damage in babies. WHO has estimated that the virus will reach most of the hemisphere and infect up to 4 million people by year’s end.