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Climate Change May Worsen Plague

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Source: LiveScience, 6/14/2011

By: Katharine Gammon

Chinese and Norwegian researchers examined the association between climate and the severity of human plague in China during the most recent outbreaks between 1850 and 1964, when 1.6 million people became ill. They analyzed the plague data along with an index of precipitation over a 500-year period for 120 locations across China. [Read: 7 Devastating Infectious Diseases]

“We have found [a] very clear relationship between the amount of precipitation and the occurrence of human plague: the more precipitation, the more plague in the north of China whereas the less in the south,” study author Nils Stenseth, of the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis at the University of Oslo in Norway, told LiveScience. The study results were published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More precipitation is expected in certain parts of the globe with a warming climate, according to the researchers, which might meanmore cases of plague in the future.

They found that in the northern regions of China, which generally has a dry climate, increased rainfall was linked to more cases of plague; the researchers suspect the wetter conditions gave rise to more vegetation, so flea-bearing rodents had more food.

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