Disease and climate change

Spread of Hendra raises questions about climate change and disease

A small outbreak of the deadly Hendra virus in Australia following last winter’s heavy flooding has raised concerns about the link between climate change and the spread of disease.

Australia’s 18 reported cases of Hendra virus infection in 2011 were more than the previous 16 years combined, according to the Daily Climate. Hendra is a zoonotic disease—one that has origins in animals but has somehow made the jump to humans. Veterinary epidemiologists tracking the virus suspect the disastrous flooding from November 2010 to January 2011 in northeastern Australia caused an ecological upheaval that forced Hendra-carrying fruit bats into closer proximity to domesticated animals like horses and dogs, which in turn infect humans.

Scientists are especially concerned to see a zoonotic disease originate and spread in a developed country like Australia.