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A plague on global warmers.

I picked up a story on the Libertarian blog about the new diseases we can expect as a 'result of climate change'. It is scaremongering of the highest order and worth tearing apart. Since disease and finding cures for them is my day job, I downloaded the pretty brochure and had a laugh.

Here are the 'deadly dozen':

1. Avian influenza. A virus spread by birds along migratory routes. It might indeed manage to spread by human-human contact, and it might turn out to be nasty, but it has nothing at all to do with climate change. Viruses do not reproduce outside their hosts. Outside temperature is irrelevant. If it becomes a serious human pathogen, it will be entirely unconnected with climate and will affect everyone from the Arctic to the equator. No score, Greenies.

2. Babesia. A tick-borne disease, so far not a serious human threat. We have ticks in the UK now. Climate won't matter. No score, Greenies.

3. Cholera. Used to be common in the UK before decent sewers. It's already here. It's caused by sewerage leaking into water supplies. Unless our society collapses (which it might) we don't have to worry about cholera. No connection with climate. No score, Greenies.

4. Ebola. Another virus. See 1. No score, Greenies.

5. Intestinal and external parasites. Lovely generic term, covering Salmonella, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, bot-fly and many others we already have. Giardia might manage to grow if the average temperature went up by about five degrees but even the rabid Greenies aren't claiming that. I'll award a half point for this one but it's a grudging half point because this is so generic as to be worthless.

6. Plague. We had that in the UK in the mid 1600's between the civil war and the Fire of London. About the time of the little ice age. It was spread by rats, and rats are still here. No climate connection. No score, Greenies.

7. Lyme disease. Spread by rats, through urine. You can catch this by drinking beer from a bottle in a pub, if the cellar has rats. It's already in the UK although fortunately not too common. No climate connection. No score, Greenies.

8. Red tides. These already happen, even in the North of Scotland. It's the reason you don't eat shellfish unless there's an 'R' in the month. The red algal blooms are toxic and are taken up by the shellfish. They occur between May and August. They happen now and have happened for centuries. Nothing new, no climate connection, no score.

9. Rift valley fever. A virus. See 1. No score.

10. Sleeping sickness. Spread by the tsetse fly and common in sub-Saharan Africa. To let that fly flourish here, the UK would have to warm up a lot and produce some decent hot swamps. Not likely, even if the scaremongers are right. Still, I'll give the Greenies half a point out of sympathy.

11. Tuberculosis. Been in the UK a long, long time, and still here. It's making a big comeback because it has an antibiotic-resistant variant. Nothing to do with climate. No score, Greenies.

12. Yellow fever. A virus. Its spread is controlled by compulsory inoculation of anyone travelling to the affected areas. The reason for that is it's a virus, so it's not contained by climate. If it was, there'd be no need for compulsory inoculation. No score, Greenies.

So, out of a possible twelve, the Greenie scaremongers score one. And that's because I'm in a good mood. This whole pamphlet will only work because nobody knows a damn thing about history. Most of those diseases have been eradicated in this country by decent sewerage and water treatment. And, of course, Alexander Fleming's bad lab practice helped. It's interesting to note that penicillin could not possibly be discovered today. If you left plates of bacteria around, Health and Safety would have you fired.

Climate had nothing to do with it. Some, like tuberculosis, are still available for anyone who wants to try them. Climate had no effect on that either.

It's all crap, like the rest of the scary stuff. Its only purpose, like all things Green, is to con money out of us.
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( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
10th Oct, 2008 11:02 (UTC)
The Black Death...
The Black Death plague wasn't bubonic plague, as you seem to think. If you look at modern owl pellets, you find rat bones from rats the owls have eaten. If you examine owl pellets from medieval deposits, you don't find rat bones except in port towns, from immigrant Rattus rattus brought in on ships. Rattus rattus is beyond the northern extreme of its range in the UK, and was in medieval times when the weather was warmer than now; these rats were ship-born immigrants and didn't breed here.

So, at the time of the Black Death, there were no rats in the UK, or not commonly. Similarly the huge rat die-offs that normally presage an outbreak of bubonic plague (it kills the rats first, then the starving rat fleas bite people out of sheer desperation) were not recorded in medieval times.

The medieval Black Death was not bubonic plague. It was an unknown haemorragic virus, with a long infectious incubation period of perhaps a fortnight prior to illness and visible symptoms, and was human-to-human transmitted, no animal vector involved at all.

Having said this, it was in no way connected to climatic change.
11th Oct, 2008 16:16 (UTC)
Re: The Black Death...
Interesting. I'll have to look it up. I was under the impression the plague was Pasteurella pestis, later renamed Yersinia pestis.

What about the larger brown rat, Rattus norvegicus? That one might be a bit big for a British owl to take. I don't know when the brown rat arrived. Another thing to go and look up!

10th Oct, 2008 12:01 (UTC)

Comparatively how much more do the human vectors, such as mass immmigration, affect epidemiology? I would guess it is many orders of magnitude greater, and all for the want of a few simple controls put in such as disease screening for new arrivals and better preventative technologies.

If the greenies wanted to do something about disease control they would be suggesting something that would put them firmly in the good books of the extreme right wing; massive curbs (if not complete sessation) of immigration (note: I most certainly dont advocate this!).

But I doubt we will hear calls for that here; considering that isn't what they are trying to achieve with this rot.
11th Oct, 2008 16:14 (UTC)
True, a disease has no need to wait for global warming, it can arrive in a few hours on a jet. If it needs a tropical vector in its life cycle (like malaria) then it won't get far. If it spreads directly between humans (like Ebola) then the affected area will have to be quarantined. Although that depends on it being spotted before an infected person gets on a train...
10th Oct, 2008 15:23 (UTC)
Lyme disease comes from ticks. Primarily deer ticks. I'm no fan of the green brigade but even so they may have a point about that one, it's common in the very humid, slightly warmer than our climate of the East coast USA. However, it's already in Britain just less common.
Isn't it Weil's disease that comes from rat urine? Can't be bothered to google it!
Your blog is excellent btw, Bendy Girl
11th Oct, 2008 16:11 (UTC)
You (and DK below) are right - I shouldn't post so late at night when my thinking is blurred!

It's Weil's disease from the rats, and Lyme from the ticks.

I still say it's scaremongering by Greens, desperate to implement controls on us using the global warming excuse.
11th Oct, 2008 14:29 (UTC)
I have to second Bendy Girl's comment: Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease, etc. Maybe a point for the Greenies there?

And it is, indeed, Weil's disease that comes from rat urine. I remember being warned, at school, to check for the symptoms if we capsized whilst rowing on the Thames.

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )