VULNERABILITY OF WATERBORNE DISEASES TO CLIMATE CHANGE IN CANADA: A REVIEW
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This project addresses two important issues relevant to the health of Canadians: the risk of waterborne illness and the health impacts of global climate change. The Canadian health burden from waterborne illness is unknown, although it presumably accounts for a significant proportion of enteric illness. Recently, large outbreaks with severe consequences produced by E. coli O157:H7 and Cryptosporidium have alarmed Canadians and brought demands for political action. A concurrent need to understand the health impacts of global climate changes and to develop strategies to prevent or prepare for these has also been recognized. There is mounting evidence that weather is often a factor in triggering waterborne disease outbreaks. A recent study of precipitation and waterborne illness in the United States found that more than half the waterborne disease outbreaks in the United States during the last half century followed a period of extreme rainfall. Projections of international global climate change scenarios suggest that, under conditions of global warming most of Canada may expect longer summers, milder winters, increased summer drought, and more extreme precipitation. Excess precipitation, floods, high temperatures, and drought could affect the risk of waterborne illness in Canada. The existing scientific information regarding most weather-related adverse health impacts and on the impacts of global climate change on health in Canada is insufficient for informed decision making. The results of this project address this need through the investigation of the complex systemic interrelationships between disease incidence, weather parameters, and water quality and quantity, and by projecting the potential impact of global climate change on those relationships.
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