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Scientists make breakthrough discovery that could predict disease outbreaks months in advance — here's why this matters

The coronavirus pandemic showed just what happens when global healthcare networks aren't prepared.

The coronavirus pandemic showed just what happens when global healthcare networks aren't prepared.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Rising global temperatures as a result of human-caused pollution lead to a number of problematic consequences, such as increased risk and intensity of extreme weather conditions, the melting of polar ice caps, and the disruption of animal life cycles and habitats.

Another concern is the higher risk of disease, with mosquito-borne disease dengue, for example, predicted to affect more areas of the globe as thermometers tick upward. 

Scientists, though, have found a link between the disease and sea temperatures that will help to anticipate future outbreaks.

What's happening?

As the Xinhua news agency reported, shared by The Weather Channel, scientists in China have found that anomalies in sea surface temperature can allow for dengue epidemic warnings to be made earlier.

Previous models have been able to give worldwide health systems a three-month head start on preparation, but these new findings could extend that by six months. 

A nine-month warning would enable governments to better prepare health services to deal with increased cases, provide more beds for patients, and to stock up on necessary medications.

The research used dengue case reports from 46 countries in Southeast Asia and America, finding "global climate patterns and the seasonal and interannual magnitude of dengue epidemics" in the Northern and Southern hemispheres are linked.

Why is epidemic response important?

The coronavirus pandemic showed just what happens when global healthcare networks aren't prepared for a sudden rise in hospital admissions. 

While a dengue epidemic would be different than COVID-19 in that the disease cannot be spread from person to person and there is already some knowledge about effective treatments, being prepared to alleviate the strain on healthcare providers is so important for a quick and successful response.

But with rising global temperatures worldwide making conditions for mosquito breeding more favorable and widespread, more locations need to be ready for a potential dengue outbreak.

For example, scientists are predicting that mosquito-spread cases could increase in North America as mosquitoes find favorable areas to reproduce. Europe has also seen rising cases of dengue

What can be done to prevent dengue risks?

Slowing the rate of rising temperatures — and, hopefully, one day reversing this trend — is essential to curb the spread of mosquito-related disease.

According to the Central Mass Mosquito Control Project, mosquitoes thrive in temperatures of 80 degrees Fahrenheit and higher, and they lay their eggs in warm water. 

Taking action to prevent a warmer-than-average climate, such as driving your car less — or switching to an electric one — eating less meat, and changing the way you deal with domestic waste, can make a difference. 

But while we can all try to make a difference ourselves, greater impact can be made by governments introducing pro-climate policies and big businesses being more responsible regarding the pollution they produce. Voting for climate-conscious political candidates and making your voice heard with your wallet, then, can help to influence these actions. 

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