Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Dangers of Global Warming

Many natural cycles we depend on for our health and livelihood are changing. The experiences of these people and businesses give a preview of life in a warmer world. Also see common myths and facts about global warming's dangers.
Our Health
More heat can cause serious health problems.
Diseases Spread as Climate Changes
One day in the spring of 1993, an otherwise healthy young man was rushed to a hospital in New Mexico because he was having trouble breathing. Within hours, he died of acute respiratory failure. He had been on his way to the funeral of his fiancée who had died from similar causes days earlier. Within a week, medical experts discovered a handful of similar deaths in the Southwest. All of the victims had been young and relatively fit.
The culprit? Hantavirus. Virtually unknown in the United States before 1993, by February 2006, 416 cases of hantavirus had been found in a number of states as far-flung as Florida and New York.
Hantavirus is a lung disease that is spread by carriers like deer mice. People contract the disease by breathing in the virus that has gotten into the air through rodent droppings and urine.
Scientists suspect a link between climate change and the 1993-94 hantavirus outbreak. Six years of drought followed by heavy spring rains in 1993 produced a burst of plant growth. This in turn led to a tenfold increase in the population of deer mice. Extreme weather, such as drought and torrential downpours, will be increasingly common as the Earth heats up.

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