Saturday, February 24, 2007

Vibrio Food Poisoning and Global Warming

Global warming nudged the temperature in Alaska's oyster beds just high enough to give the bacterium Vibrio parahaemoolyticus the warmth to flourish. As reported in the L.A. Times, seafood in Alaska was typically too cold for the nasty microbe, but by the summer of 2004, the critical 59-degree mark was surpassed in the local waters. Cruise ship passengers fed on local oysters became seriously ill.

"This was probably the best example to date of how global climate change is changing the importation of infectious diseases," said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, acting chief of epidemiology at the Alaska Division of Public Health, who published a study on the outbreak.The spread of human disease has become one of the most worrisome subplots in the story of global warming. Incremental temperature changes have begun to redraw the distribution of bacteria, insects and plants, exposing new populations to diseases that they have never seen before.

Food for thought on the significance of a few degrees of change impacting a region...