Statement: Infectious Diseases Society of America Joins Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health

February 5, 2019 – The Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health (Consortium) announced today that the Infectious Diseases Society of America has signed on to the Consortium of 23 major medical societies declaring climate change a threat to health.

“The science that climate change is harming our health is in and doctors are speaking out about everything from extreme weather and heat to seeing cases of infectious diseases like Lyme disease, West Nile and other tropical diseases more often and in new parts of the country,” said Dr. Mona Sarfaty, the director of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health.

Sarfaty continued, “Recent research has even shown a connection between increasing temperatures and the rise in infections that are resistant to antibiotics. IDSA is a critical partner in bringing even greater expertise to both the well-established science and newer insights into how climate change threatens our health and the role of infectious diseases.”

The Consortium, which comprises more than half the country’s physicians (about 600,000), is focused on educating doctors and their patients about the ways that climate change is harming health—and the potential to improve the health of people and the climate through a transition to clean, renewable energy.

“IDSA recognizes the critical impact of climate change on global human health, particularly infectious diseases. We recently joined the Consortium to add our voice in raising awareness,” said Yukari C. Manabe, MD, IDSA Climate Change Working Group Representative and a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “The Consortium is a constructive way to put our collective weight behind initiatives to address climate change and to accelerate climate solutions to interrupt and reverse the worrying upward trends in human infectious diseases, particularly diarrheal diseases and those spread to humans from animals or insects.”

Changing Climate, Changing Diseases—and Drug Resistance

Existing research has made clear that climate change is harming the health of people across the United States and around the world by: altering where (and in what seasons) animals and insects that spread diseases live, driving sea level, and displacing of people. Specific examples of these ways that climate change is increasing or changing the patterns of infectious diseases include:

  • Waterborne Infectious Diseases. With sea-level rise and increased flooding, sanitation systems are overwhelmed and can lead to overflow that spread disease and jeopardize safe water supplies. According to the IDSA, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico saw dozens of cases of leptospirosis, including three confirmed deaths. Increasing ocean temperatures can also lead to increased disease in fisheries that can be passed to humans or threaten food security.
  • Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. Climate change can alter the behavior and range of wildlife, bringing them into contact with new ecosystems and other species. The development of some new strains of the flu are caused by different species carrying different strains of the disease mixing, including the H1N1 influenza virus that sparked the 2009 pandemic.
  • Tick and Mosquito-spread Diseases. Climate change has changed the patterns of ticks and mosquitoes that spread a number of diseases. The mosquito Aedes aegypti, which spreads Zika, Dengue, yellow fever and Chikungunya used to live only in the Southeastern part of the United States, but is now in the mid-Atlantic and Midwest. Similarly, earlier springs and later frosts have extended the range and season in which ticks spread diseases like Lyme disease. The CDC has shown that the number of cases of diseases spread by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas tripled between 2004 and 2016 and issued advice to the public about this challenge.
  • Population Displacement. The displacement of groups of people from climate-related crisis to either new regions or temporarily to shelters can result in the spread of infectious diseases through tight quarters and poor sanitation. In wake of Hurricane Katrina, there were more than 20 different outbreaks and 1,000 cases of diarrheal diseases among those evacuated.

For additional information on the health harms from climate change, you can read the Consortium’s 2017 report, Medical Alert! Climate Change is Harming Our Health.

About the Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health

Members of the Medical Society Consortium include: American College of Physicians (ACP), American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAI), American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM), American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), American Geriatrics Society (AGS), Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM), American Association of Community Psychiatrists (AACP), National Medical Association (NMA), Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM), American Telemedicine Association (ATA), Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO), the California Chapter of American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP-CA), American College of Osteopathic Internists (ACOI), American Medical Association (AMA), American Psychiatric Association (APA), American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA), American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM), American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).

About Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) represents physicians, scientists and other health care professionals who specialize in infectious diseases. IDSA’s purpose is to improve the health of individuals, communities, and society by promoting excellence in patient care, education, research, public health, and prevention relating to infectious diseases.