Climate change favors the spread of zoonotic diseases

Written by Karim Belbacher and Bernd Fox

Often times, viruses are able to pass from animals to humans. In particularly serious cases, there are therefore epidemics, as is currently the case with Corona, for example. Due to the fact that the habitats of animal species will continue to be restricted as a result of climate change, more zoonotic diseases will spread in the future.

In the video: Bernd Fuchs in Climate Update explains how zoonotic diseases are transmitted to humans

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Confined habitats increase the chance of transmission

In the future, more viruses will spread from animals to humans.

© IMAGO / Bihlmayerfotografie,

Does climate change encourage the transmission of viruses to humans? Scientist Colin Carlson of Georgetown University investigated this question with colleagues. We will not like the answer. More and more so-called zoonotic diseases are already being transmitted to humans. One of the main reasons is the overlap of the animal habitat. It is being pushed back more and more, for example through agricultural use. They now not only share their habitat with more and more other species, but often with humans as well.

It is therefore not surprising that more and more zoonotic diseases are transmitted to humans. By 2070, researchers estimate that first contacts with other wild animal species will double. This, in turn, also increases the risk that they will end up in humans.

At least 4,500 species are expected to jump

San Isidro West Cliff, Ecuador, Andes |  San Isidro West Cliff, Ecuador, Andes |  Worldwide use

The habitats of animals and humans are increasingly intertwined, especially in the tropics. This increases the risk of transmission of the virus.

© picture alliance / blickwinkel / A, AGAMI / M. Guit

Carlson’s team expects these types of jumps to increase, particularly in tropical regions of Africa and Southeast Asia. This may be due to different climatic zones and many species of mammals in an enclosed space. Scientists expect the number of possible jumps to be 15,000 species and 4,500 are considered certain. Even global warming of less than two degrees cannot stop this spread.

Our results underscore the urgent need for virus detection and control.Carlson explains. In addition, shifts in species distribution zones must be tracked, especially in the tropics where most zoonotic diseases are found and where warming is most rapid.

The most common zoonotic disease: Corona virus

Larva spool in the box: A civet cat is a carrier of SARS

Reel larvae are the carrier of the SARS virus.

© German News Agency

Perhaps this is the most famous zoonosis Covid-19 virusWhich the Corona pandemic gave us. Scientists had suspected that the virus was transmitted by bats. However, this is not 100 percent guaranteed. Other coronaviruses also include Middle East respiratory syndrome And the SARS. Bats are also the original carriers there, while larvae of camel and civet cats act as intermediate hosts.

Monkeypox (monkeypox virus)

    May 24, 2022: Warning Sign Monkey Pox, Monkey Pox PHOTOMONTAGE *** Warning Sign Monkey Pox, Monkey Pox PHOTOMONTAGE

Warning sign with monkeypox inscription: The monkeypox virus is currently causing a sensation all over the world.

© IMAGO / Bihlmayerfotografie, IMAGO / Warning sign with the inscription mo,

They are doing it now Monkeypox (monkeypox virus) round. In fact, smallpox has been considered extinct since 1979. A consistent vaccination campaign has contributed significantly to this. However, because the virus has not appeared in Germany since 1972, compulsory vaccination was lifted in West Germany in 1976 and in East Germany in 1982. People vaccinated against smallpox have some protection (up to 85 percent) from the disease. Rodents are intermediate hosts and vectors of monkeypox. One reason for the recent spread of cases could be the deforestation of more areas of forest. The virus is transmitted by the exchange of body fluids.

The real flu

Archive - January 24, 2014, Berlin: A young boy holds a handkerchief to his nose.  (illustration of

Real flu has similar symptoms to the common cold, but the viruses that cause are different.

© dpa, Nicolas Armer, nar dak sab tmk htf

It is another zoonotic disease that has gained some notoriety real flu (the flu). It is an infectious disease transmitted by different animals. For example, swine flu (H1N1) killed about 200,000 people in 2009/10. The original virus is H5N1 avian influenza.


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Bats are considered carriers of the Ebola virus.

© dpa, CDC . Bulletin

Ebola With a mortality rate of about 90 percent, it is one of the deadliest zoonotic diseases. Bats are also vectors of Ebola. Although the first disease was reported in 1976, the largest outbreak of fever occurred in 2014-2016. Similar to monkeypox, Ebola viruses are transmitted through bodily fluids, but eating contaminated meat and contact with contaminated objects are also transmitted.

dengue fever

    Illustration of a mosquito sucking blood An illustration of a mosquito sucking blood.  Prism xINxGERxSUixHUNXONLY SCIEPRO / SCIENCExPHOTOxLIBRARY F023 / 6684

Travelers in tropical countries especially like to catch dengue fever. The carriers are mosquitoes.

© imago images / Science Photo Library, Science Photo Library, via,

It’s another viral disease dengue fever, which are usually hunted by travelers in tropical countries and then brought with them to Europe. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, but it originally came from monkeys. The first cases of fever were recorded by the Chinese several centuries after the birth of Christ.

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