"In coming decades, more heat, humidity and rainfall could allow mosquitoes, ticks, and other parasites and carriers of tropical and subtropical diseases to spread to areas where they didn't exist previously, infecting populations that haven't built up resistance to them, intelligence and health officials say...
Officials at the CIA's Center on Climate Change and National Security, created in September 2009 to gather information on the threat from global warming, say countering the spread of disease is high on their agenda."---The Kansas City Star (1-10-11)
One of the most worrisome national security threats of climate change is the spread of disease, among both people and animals, U.S. intelligence and health officials say.
But more than a decade after such concerns were first raised by U.S. intelligence agencies, significant gaps remain in the health surveillance and response network - not just in developing nations, but in the United States as well, according to those officials and a review of federal documents and reports.
And those gaps, they say, undermine the ability of the U.S. and world health officials to respond to disease outbreaks before they become national security threats.
"We're way behind the ball on this," said Josh Michaud, who has worked at the Defense Department's National Center for Medical Intelligence and its Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response System. "It's a collective action problem."
Michaud said monitoring currently was done largely through publicly available medical information and mathematical modeling, but that's hardly enough to spot sudden disease trends quickly.
U.S. intelligence officials list the spread of disease as one of their top four climate change-related security concerns, along with food and water scarcity and the impact of extreme weather on transportation and communications systems. Outbreaks of disease can destabilize foreign countries, especially developing nations, overtax the U.S. military and undermine social cohesion and the economy at home.
In coming decades, more heat, humidity and rainfall could allow mosquitoes, ticks, and other parasites and carriers of tropical and subtropical diseases to spread to areas where they didn't exist previously, infecting populations that haven't built up resistance to them, intelligence and health officials say.
Malaria, cholera and other diseases are now being seen in parts of Asia and Africa where they weren't detected previously, something experts attribute to climate change. Dengue fever returned to the United States in 2009 after a 75-year absence - and might spread to 28 states, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council study. [Read the full text.]