As I was scrolling through my Twitter feed yesterday morning, I found an article posted by ClimateCentral. I clicked the link and was directed to an article titled What You Need to Know About Zika And Climate Change. Before reading the article, I was aware of the Zika virus and how it had advanced over much of South America. Besides this fact, I was unsure of how much climate change has effected the spread of the virus.
This mosquito-borne illness has thrived due to the increased precipitation and higher temperatures in South America. In the area of the initial outbreak, there were drier conditions. This, however, can be linked to how people store their water in times of decreased rainfall. El Niño, a change in the equatorial pattern in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Peru and Chile, has had a great deal to do with the spread of this virus. During El Niño, there is a greater deal of warm air that stays over the western part of South America. This is because the Trade winds stray from their average speed of 10-15MPH to a weak 0-5MPH. El Niño conditions are also favorable for dengue fever – another mosquito-borne virus that affects the subtropics.
The end of the article goes on to talk about how La Niña will effect the spread of the destructive virus. (La Niña is simply the opposite of El Niño – stronger Trade winds). Instead of spreading across more of South America, the virus could make its way around parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared yesterday, February 1, 2016, that the Zika virus was a public health emergency. There is still a lot of research to be done in order to understand the Zika virus, but knowing that a majority of the impacts are due to climate change is evidence that our world is changing.