No one will be surprised to hear that there is a worryingly wide range of problems associated with climate change. From extreme weather events to melting ice caps and the extinction of animal species – these have all been well-researched to fall somewhere in the range of ‘likely’ to ‘highly probable’. Perhaps not as obvious is the sudden rise of the Coronavirus and the flu, as a direct result of climate change. How does that even work? Let’s try to find out in this article and read the Tips & Tricks to avoid or treat Flu!

Coronavirus and Climate Change: Winter And Traveling Makes People More Vulnerable

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases:

The new cluster of viral pneumonia cases originating in Wuhan, China, marks the third time in 20 years that a member of the large family of coronaviruses (CoVs) has jumped from animals to humans and sparked an outbreak.

Top microbiologist states golden window of containment was missed, cost of containment escalating dramatically, the virus takes 2-3mo to reach max strength, & morality rates will increase from here. The total scale of the outbreak could reach 10x that of SARS.

In order for this coronavirus, or any, to lead to a pandemic in humans, it needs to do three things:

  • efficiently infect humans
  • replicate in humans
  • spread easily among humans

New Coronavirus Can Spread Person-to-Person

The new coronavirus that began sickening people in China late in 2019 can be transmitted from human to human, China’s health ministry announced last Monday. The mysterious respiratory illness emerged last month in a fish market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, and officials thought it was mostly passed from animals to humans. However, Zhong Nanshan of China’s National Health Commission said two people who lived hundreds of miles away caught the virus from a family member who had visited Wuhan.

How did the coronavirus start in China?

Wuhan coronavirus may have been transmitted to people from snakes. A new coronavirus that has claimed 56 lives in Wuhan (Sunday 26th of January 2020), China, may have been transmitted to people from snakes or bats according to genetic analysis. The snakes may have caught the virus from bats in the food market in which both animals were sold.

The semi-autonomous region of Macau has imposed new restrictions on visitors from mainland China, AFP’s Hong Kong correspondent reports.

Is bat soup sold in the Wuhan market in China behind the Coronavirus outbreak?

While nothing has been officially declared, experts feel that bat soup can be one of the reasons, as it is an unusual but widely consumed Chinese delicacy. In a statement, a scientist has mentioned, “The Wuhan Coronavirus, which can cause pneumonia, the natural host could be bats, but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate.”

Coronavirus

What is the coronavirus in humans?

Coronaviruses are types of viruses that typically affect the respiratory tract of mammals, including humans. They are associated with the common cold, pneumonia and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and can also affect the gut.

The number of infected hits 1,400 worldwide. China has confirmed that it is dealing with a total of 2.057 cases of coronavirus nationally. So far, 39 have been discharged. The number of those affected internationally has surpassed 1,400, but the death toll remains at 56.

The current cases show there is definitely human-to-human transmission. (Japan, US, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Nepal Uk, France (Paris and Bordeaux) and Australia. Many health workers have also been infected and one doctor died. It has now spread to various places in China, including Beijing and Shanghai.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, second right, shows visitors from Wuhan receiving health screening at Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province on Jan 5. He said on Monday that a Chinese woman found infected with a new strain of coronavirus was in quarantine and being treated in Nonthaburi province.

Corona Virus, Flu, And Climate Change: Is There A Connection? Coronavirus spread is ‘accelerating’ says China as death toll rises to 56

How do you catch coronavirus?

Sometimes, but not often, a coronavirus can infect both animals and humans. Most coronaviruses spread the same way other cold-causing viruses do, through infected people coughing and sneezing, by touching an infected person’s hands or face, or by touching things such as doorknobs that infected people have touched.

The disease has also spread outside China: Two cases were diagnosed in Thailand, one in Japan, one in South Korea and one in Taiwan. The Philippines also reported a suspected case Tuesday and later in Nepal, the UK, and France. There are fears the disease could spread further as millions are expected to travel throughout Asia Tuesday for the Lunar New Year. Airports in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco will begin screening passengers coming from Wuhan.

The new virus has raised the specter of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), another coronavirus that killed almost 800 people in 2002 and 2003. Zhong, who also helped discover SARS, said the new disease was not as infectious but was ‘climbing’.

How long does the coronavirus live?

How long does the virus survive in the environment? Outdoors, the virus can usually only survive for hours or days. Indoors, in dried-up cat litter, it can survive for up to seven weeks.

This undated file image released by the British Health Protection Agency shows an electron microscope image of a coronavirus, part of a family of viruses that cause ailments including the common cold and SARS

How contagious is the virus?

It is too soon to know how easily the virus will spread. It is airborne and we know it can be transmitted between people. Chinese authorities have presented evidence of fourth-generation cases in Wuhan and second-generation infections outside of the city. Yesterday, the World Health Organization heard preliminary calculations for the average number of infections that each infected person may go on to cause, known as R0. This is estimated to be 1.4 to 2.5 people per infected person. In comparison, seasonal flu usually has an R0 of around 1.3.

Viruses In Relation With Air Temperature And Relative Humidity

Assessment of the risks posed by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SARS-CoV) on surfaces requires data on the survival of this virus on environmental surfaces and on how survival is affected by environmental variables, such as air temperature (AT) and relative humidity (RH).

The use of surrogate viruses has the potential to overcome the challenges of working with SARS-CoV and to increase the available data on coronavirus survival on surfaces.

Two potential surrogates were evaluated in this study:

  • transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV)
  • and mouse hepatitis virus (MHV)

Both were used to determine the effects of AT and RH on the survival of coronaviruses on stainless steel.

  • At 4°C, the infectious virus persisted for as long as 28 days, and the lowest level of inactivation occurred at 20% RH.
  • Inactivation was more rapid at 20°C than at 4°C at all humidity levels; the viruses persisted for 5 to 28 days
  • The slowest inactivation occurred at low RH. Both viruses were inactivated more rapidly at 40°C than at 20°C.

The relationship between inactivation and RH was not monotonic, and there was greater survival or a greater protective effect at low RH (20%) and high RH (80%) than at moderate RH (50%).

There was also evidence of an interaction between AT and RH. The results show that when high numbers of viruses are deposited, TGEV and MHV may survive for days on surfaces at ATs and RHs typical of indoor environments.

TGEV and MHV could serve as conservative surrogates for modeling exposure, the risk of transmission, and control measures for pathogenic enveloped viruses, such as SARS-CoV and influenza virus, on health care surfaces.

Expected humidity (%): 27/1-75, 28/1-70, 29/1-62, 30/1-62, 31/1-39. 1/2-58, 2/2-41, 3/2-33, 4/2-69, 5/2-70, 6/2-85, 7/2-89, 8/2-89.

Temperature forecast Wuhan.

Temperature year-round Wuhan.

Climate Change And Flu

Ironically, initial research seemed to point towards climate change actually benefitting our health. It was thought to be one of the few positives to a very negative, with fewer deaths to mourn as a result of respiratory illnesses. After all, those are common in colder areas, where flu gets to spread like a wildfire as the result of harsh winter days and poor ventilation. Warmer weather would logically speak, counteract this.

Unfortunately, new research has cast doubt over this hypothesis. In a worrisome twist, some are now concerned that climate change could actually worsen pandemics. This has to do with the way in which viruses, including influenza and HIV, develop and spread. It has already been proven that certain strains of influenza, usually occurring in the winter, are now able to survive in warmer temperatures.

What has also been found is that seasonal diseases like influenza are rearing their ugly heads earlier in the year – all while being more powerful. There appears to be a strong link between warm winters and the consequent flu breakouts immediately after. Meaning, a warm winter with a mild flu season will usually trigger an earlier and more severe flu outbreak in the following year.

2020 on track to be worst US flu season in decades

This explains why these viruses have been found in Asia during their summer months, having been brought over by birds, who have been pushed further north by climate change and warmer winters. This allows them to come in contact with other bird species and, consequently, other forms of influenza. Together, this leads to poultry interchanging flu types and incubating new and potentially dangerous new strains.

These feathered migrating creatures then hold the power of spreading these diseases over the world, with our regular influenza seeding in Southeast Asia before taking over the rest of the world in a miserable swoop during our winters.

Flu And Climate Change: Older Adults (Above 65 years)

According to the CDC, people aged 65 and older are at a greater risk for serious complications from the flu. This is because the immune system typically weakens with age. Flu infection can also worsen long-term health conditions, like heart disease, lung disease, and asthma.

Some of this has been contributed to the changing La Niña, an increase in the intensity and frequency of this weather phenomenon, causing different flu types to converge as a result of birds and animals that are normally not found together mixing. Not only does this lead to more creatures being infected, but it also molds influenza genetic material in new combinations.

Flu And Climate Change: We Can’t Predict How Bad 2019th & 2020th Year’s Flu Season Will Be

The outlook for 2019’s & 2020’s flu season is not particularly rosy, based on the relatively mild 2018 season and warm winters. Yet it is nearly impossible to predict until we find ourselves in the midst of the epidemic – at which point there is not much to do but sit it out.

And ‘sitting it out’ can be anything from a mild nuisance to a life-threatening event. The influenza illness, or the flu, in short, is characterized by a sudden onset of a high fever, chills, muscle aches, tiredness, and a dry cough – symptoms that get progressively worse over the first few days. Although most people infected will not require any medical attention, there are instances where high-risk groups, including the pregnant and elderly, could suffer from very dangerous complications.

In 2018, the World Health Organisation characterized that year’s flu season as pretty mild. This characterization is made based on the speed of circulation, the seriousness, and the impact of the disease. So, in short, how fast it spreads, how many people are hospitalized or even die, and the strain it puts on hospitals and doctors. In 2017, on the other hand, there was a pretty serious outbreak, that started early and had a serious impact on society. And it looks as if 2019 is going to follow in its footsteps.

Flu And Climate Change: Flu, Why Is It So Hard To Predict?

The problem with making predictions regarding the severity of the flu season is the fact that there are actually four different types of viruses to consider, that can be categorized in influenza types A, with subtypes H1N1pdm09 and H3N2, and B, with lineages B/Victoria and B/Yamagata. Although those at higher risk may choose to get vaccinated, these vaccinations only protect against certain of those (sub)types.

What this means is that those vaccinated will not be fully covered against all types – nor will a previous infection with one type protect you against other types. Add to this that influenza viruses are in constant flux, meaning that a certain vaccine or previous infection will not grant immunity for next season’s slightly altered viruses, and it is not hard to see why flu can be such a tough opponent.

Predicting flu is very difficult

Additionally, it poses a problem for tracking the specific (sub)types: hospitals and doctors generally do not collect information on the specific viruses that they come across in their practice. Not only is this process time-consuming and costly, but it also does not add anything of value to the treatment plan either.

An unfortunate side effect is that it makes it that much harder to observe the circulation pattern of a specific virus, in turn making general flu patterns across seasons hard to predict.

Flu And Climate Change: Flu, What’s Happening Elsewhere In The World?

Not only is it hard to predict flu trends over time, but it is also equally hard to find trends over space. Even though increased (air) travel has made it easier for viruses to mutate and find their way across the globe, there is no consistent pattern of flu viruses traveling the globe. During the same flu season, very different viruses can dominate on different continents.

Where Is Influenza Most Common?

A study in 2015 looked into where influenza is most common, alongside how it spreads around the globe. While there are cases of it appearing all around the world, scientists found that it is far more prominent in the east than in the west, particularly in Southeast Asia.

Influenza most common in South-East Asia. Now the Caronavirus!

Even the timing can differ. Particularly in (sub)tropical areas, where there are no real winters, there can be multiple flu seasons each year, circulating at vastly different times. Some have pointed at climate or even tourism as the reason for this variation, although a causal relationship is yet to be established.

It is notoriously hard to predict what kind of patterns as well, although we are slowly getting to a place where modern technologies and an increased understanding of the flu are allowing for better analysis and tracking. Yet there is still a long way to go.

Flu And Climate Change: Definite History Of The Flu

Looking back in time, though, we are certainly much more on the ball than we ever were before. We are documenting and analyzing far more than our ancestors. The very first reported instances of the flu might date back to 500 BCE, with Greek historians reporting on a so-called ‘three-year plague’, that boasted symptoms much like our flu. However, descriptions were so scarce that many historians are not convinced that it actually was.

What we do know is that the disease did not get its name until well in the 14th century, when the term ‘influenza’, the Italian word for ‘influence’, was coined to describe it. This ‘influence’ was contributed to either cold weather or misalignment of stars and planets. And although many different terms have been used to describe it since, this is the one that stuck.

Although the beast had been given a name, it was not until some 80 years ago that scientists actually managed to debunk the flu virus, thanks to the invention of the electron microscope. Pictures of the flu could now be made and shared, with distinctions finally made between the most prominent types. Soon after, the first influenza vaccines hit the market, including those that were capable of preventing more than one strain.

As the world evolved, so did the flu and our ways of dealing with it. Unfortunately, with climate change ramping up, we are about to enter a new phase of epidemics, pandemics and the spread of diseases like the flu. Climate change might even amplify its causes and effects and lead to the creation of mutated, vaccine-resistant strains that can be equally hard to control and contain.

Tips & Tricks to Avoid Colds And Flu This Winter

That sounds like doom and gloom. Yet it is important to realize that there is always something that we can do about it. What is the best way of staying ahead of the flu, even in this time of climate change possibly amplifying its spread and severity? There are a few tips and tricks that will minimize your chances of contracting it.

Wash hands

For most of us, washing our hands is a totally normal thing to do. During flu season, you might consider doing so a bit more often. Most viruses are transmitted by air, although they can just as easily be transferred through physical contact. Once we get the disease-spreading germs on our hands, they can easily invade our bodies when we touch our eyes, mouths or noses. By frequently washing our hands with soap and drying them using clean hand towels or paper towels, it will be much harder for a virus to get a hold of us.

Dress appropriately

Although the concept of ‘having caught a cold’ by standing out in the literal cold has been somewhat debunked, it is still imperative to stay warm and dress appropriately during the colder seasons. Once we are cold, we tend to shiver – an action that affects our immune system, making us more susceptible to lurking viruses. Get yourself a decent sweater and coat, and don’t forget your hat, as we lose quite a bit of our body heat through our head.

Avoid crowded spaces

One of the preferred breeding grounds for viruses is public transportation, alongside crowded stores and poorly ventilated office buildings. Basically, small and cramped spaces in which a lot of people crowd together. Here, infections spread easily, jumping from one person to the next. The fact that central heating is blasting in most of those spaces does not help either, as this tends to weaken our natural defenses and negatively affect our respiratory system.

Take vitamins

Vitamins are a great way of boosting your immune system. Various minerals and herbs have been proven to help us kick nasty viruses to the curb. Zinc, vitamin C and garlic have been found to reduce the frequency of colds and flu. Echinacea, a plant used by the native Americans to combat infections, is another great booster of our immune system. Taking some kind of multivitamin that includes those minerals and herbs can really do wonders in avoiding the next round of flu going around.

Keep an eye on the weather

Certain weather conditions have been found to be a real breeding ground for nasty germs. Especially when there are low cloud, dull and misty conditions, so when there is a lot of moist in the air, viruses tend to survive (much) longer. They will attach themselves to the water droplets, while a lack of wind will keep them around, instead of being blown away. So be wary of going outside when this kind of weather is forecast.

Sleep well

One of the hardest things to do in our busy lives is to ensure that we get a decent night’s sleep. Unfortunately, it is extremely important for our health: a lack of sleep has been found to be a risk factor for contracting the flu or other infections. Yet it is not just getting enough hours of sleep that matters, your state of mind also helps. If you are happy and content, this will reflect positively on your immune system. Being stressed and overworked, on the other hand, will be a sure way of catching that nasty bug going around at work.

Drink plenty

Drinking plenty of water is one of the most commonly given pieces of advice from doctors and medical professionals worldwide. Water will quite literally flush out all toxins and bad elements from our bodies, making it harder for any viruses to gain a foothold. And even if you find yourself having caught an infection, water will once again be your best friend, helping you to get it out of your system again as soon as possible.

Exercise frequently

Did you know that regular exercise will summon the so-called natural killer cells in our bodies? These little soldiers are tasked with finding and fighting all kinds of invaders, making us more resistant against infections. At the same time, going on a jog or hitting the gym will be a great way of keeping our circulation going. Our bodies are simply better at dealing with any foreign threats when subjected to regular exercise.

Tips & Tricks To Ease Flu Symptoms

Still, managed to contract the nasty flu? Then rest assured that you are not alone, as millions and millions of people are hit by this disease each year. And while there really is not much that you can do to prevent or cure it, there are some natural ways of relieving its worst symptoms.

How long does it take to get over the flu?

In general, healthy people usually get over a cold in 7 to 10 days. Flu symptoms, including fever, should go away after about 5 days, but you may still have a cough and feel weak a few days longer. All your symptoms should be gone within 1 to 2 weeks.

Rest at home

The healing power of a good nap in your own bed might even outshine that of the commonly prescribed medicines. Make sure that you cancel all and any plans that you may have, preferably for the next few days – as you are now contagious and pretty sick. Make good use of those extra hours in bed to give your ailing body some rest.

Drink, drink, and drink some more!

Drinking is important in preventing infections, but even if you already find yourself the unfortunate owner of a brand new strain of the flu, drinking is a great way of getting rid of it as soon as possible. It does not necessarily have to be water. If you prefer fruit juices, sports drinks or broth-based soups, they will do the trick as well. Staying hydrated does wonders for your respiratory system and will flush that bug out of your system before you know it.

Fight the fever

Running a fever means that your body is busy fighting this nasty invader. The best thing for you to do is help it by getting your hands on appropriate over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen, which will both lower your fever and fight the associated aches.

Fight the cough

While you are already in the pharmacy, you might want to pick up something for that nasty cough that has accompanied the infection. Other ways of clearing your airways and unclogging that runny nose include sitting in a hot, steamy bathroom, using a humidifier, sucking on a lozenge, or trying out a salt-based nose spray.

Fighting The Flu

Whether you are simply suffering from the ‘sniffles’ or a climate change activist warning against the effect that global warming will have on the flu, it is important to realize that we can do quite a bit in preventing the disease from grabbing a hold of us in the first place. The earlier tips on preventing the flu are vital in staying healthy, although the question remains whether this will sustainable in the long run.

With climate change drastically changing the world as we know it, it is likely to also change the way in which we get sick. This might mean that the flu will change from something relatively innocent into something looming and potentially dangerous. New mutations and variations might spread across the world faster than ever before and create more havoc as winters get warmer and flu seasons intensify.

Up to us to avoid a future where the simple common cold might actually turn into a killer epidemic.

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