Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The sudden surge of a nasty parasitic disease which has infected half a dozen people in the last 3 months has been blamed on climate.
A Brain-Invading Parasite Is Believed To Be Spreading Because Of Climate Change
Rhett Jones Apr 9, 2017, 4:00pm
Health officials in Hawaii have been warning residents not to touch snails or slugs with their bare hands because of an increase in cases of people coming into contact with a rare parasitic infection known as a rat lungworm. Experts are blaming its sudden spread across the United States on climate change and globalisation.
In the last two decades, there have only been two documented cases of rat lungworm infections in Hawaii. But in the past three months, six more cases have occurred in rapid succession. Other states where it has recently popped up include California, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida. According to the Atlantic, the first known case of the disease occurred in Taiwan in 1944 but in the past few years, it’s believed to have spread to the U.S. by way of rats in cargo ships.
The severity of the disease can vary wildly, there’s no known treatment, and it’s notoriously difficult to diagnose.
Cases of rat lungworm infections have been documented in over 30 countries and health officials are worried about its appearance in areas where previously the habitat was believed to be unsuitable. One recent surprise location was in Oklahoma. Scientists fear that this is just another consequence of climate change.
Pretty terrifying right? The disease sounds nasty and painful, sometimes fatal, and it is currently untreatable.
But climate is not the primary cause of this problem.
The disease is described as difficult to detect, so a lot of cases in the past might have been misdiagnosed – the apparent surge in cases could simply be better diagnostics.
The referenced article in The Atlantic barely mentions climate change as a factor.