Climate change and the flu?



    Researchers at Arizona State University conclude that climate change may influence the severity of flu symptoms and cause early onset of influenza epidemics.

  • Multiple factors interact to influence the timing and severity of influenza epidemics. However, it was noted that the 2011-12 influenza season in the US had the lowest influenza peak on record, coinciding with the 4th warmest winter on record. In contrast, the 2012-13 influenza season was unusually early and severe, despite autumn temperatures being similar to the seasonal average.
  • After analysing available climate and influenza data (> 10 years) researchers found indications that warm winters tend to be associated with particularly severe flu seasons the following year. The same pattern was seen for both influenza A and B in the US.
  • It has been suggested that fewer infected people during warm winters leads to a larger fraction of susceptible individuals in the population the following year.
  • Climate change is expected to lead to warmer winters, which may potentially exacerbate the problem of lower immunity and severe flu epidemics when cold winters do hit.

 Implications and next steps: Monitoring climate conditions and expediting the manufacture and distribution of influenza vaccines following mild winters may help to reduce the severity of influenza epidemics. These findings provide an example of the far-reaching impacts of a changing climate and might help to re-enforce the importance of the Climate Change Act 2008 in tackling global warming.

TerraDaily:;  PLOS:

About annaarathe

Research fellow, horizon scanning
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