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Climate hazards have worsened 58% of human infectious diseases

A new, comprehensive research review published in the journal Nature Climate Change shows climate hazards have intensified 58% of human infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

Climate change is already worsening the effect.

"When we saw how much, that was a moment of surprise for us: 58%. I'm telling you, that's just terrifying. We can barely deal with one of those climatic hazards, what are the chances that we're going to be dealing with 58% of them?" said lead author Camilo Mora of the University of Hawai'i Department of Geography and Environment.

Hazards like droughts, wildfires and floods can allow viruses, bacteria and fungi to live longer and thrive in more areas.

They can also force humans and animals to relocate and lose access to clean water and nutritious food.

"This is like Pandora's box, this thing of us messing with climate change. And climate change is just a key to open the box as it comes down to diseases," said Mora.

The authors found more than 1,000 unique pathways linking more than 3,000 cases to climate hazards.

"We found easily 20 different ways which could explain the outbreak that we saw from COVID," said Mora.

The authors say such an enormous threat requires attacking climate change's core causes.

Nicholas Gerbis was a senior field correspondent for KJZZ from 2016 to 2024.