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‘Global warming may propel more viruses, bacteria into our midst’ – The Hindu

To the untrained eye, COVID-19 and climate change may look like chalk and cheese. But these are definitely linked, public health experts have said, as they see the possible release of unknown bacteria and viruses from nature as a result of global warming.

These topics were discussed at a workshop on ‘Global warming and health problems’ organised by the Department of Community Medicine at the Government Medical College, Kozhikode, on Tuesday.

Asma Rahim, Professor and Head of the Department of Community Medicine, pointed out that the SARS-CoV-2 virus that caused COVID-19 had reportedly originated from a vet market in China. “Because of unbridled human activities such as deforestation and the involvement of land and forest mafias, the habitat of wild animals is threatened. There is a high possibility of interaction between human beings and unknown micro-organisms. A classic example of this is the release of the Nipah virus from bats under stress,” she said.

Another case was that of the Ebola virus in West Africa. Dr. Rahim said the melting of ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctic regions due to global warming could lead to the discharge of unidentified viruses and bacteria into our midst.

U. Surendran, senior scientist and head, Land and Water Management Research Group, Centre for Water Resources Development and Management, Kozhikode, said that over the past five decades, the forest cover of Kerala had been diminishing because of human interventions. Natural forests were giving way to plantations. The biodiversity was also changing because of which animals were finding it difficult to survive in forests. The presence of invading species and micro-organisms make their lives hard and the animals encroach into agricultural land.

“Another important factor is top soil erosion. Climate change has led to an increase in the intensity of rainfall in the State due to which soil reaches the ocean in a faster way. This is leading to deficiency of essential micronutrients such as copper, zinc and calcium in soil, which is affecting agricultural production,” he added.

Vice Principal K.G. Sajeeth Kumar spoke about common infections that occur during the summer and E.N. Abdul Latheef, Head of the Department of Dermatology, gave a lecture on skin protection during these months. T. Jayakrishnan, Professor, Department of Community Medicine, was the moderator for the event organised for journalists and representatives of local bodies.

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