Conclusion

The recent worldwide upturn in the occurrence of both new (emerging) and re-emerging or spreading infectious diseases highlights the importance of underlying environmental and social conditions as determinants of the generation, spread, and impact of infectious diseases in human populations. Human ecology, worldwide, is undergoing rapid transition. This encompasses urbanization, rising consumerism, changes in working conditions, population aging, marked increases in mobility, changes in culture and behavior, evolving health-care technologies, and other factors.

Global climate change is becoming a further, and major, large-scale influence on the pattern of infectious disease transmission. It is likely to become increasingly important over at least the next half-century, as the massive, high-inertial, and somewhat unpredictable process of climate change continues. As discussed in this chapter, the many ways in which climate change does and will influence infectious diseases are subject to a plethora of modifying (precluding, constraining, amplifying) influences by other factors and processes: constitutional characteristics of hosts, vectors and pathogens; the prevailing ambient conditions (topography, disease control programs, and others); and coexistent changes (local and global) in other social, economic, behavioral and environmental factors. This global anthropogenic process, climate change, along with other unprecedented global environmental changes, is beginning to destabilize and weaken the planet's life-support systems. Infectious diseases, unlike other diseases, depend on the biology and behavior - each often climate-sensitive - of two or more parties (pathogen, vector, intermediate host, human host). Hence, these diseases will be particularly susceptible to changes as the world's climate and its climate-sensitive geochemical and ecological systems undergo change over the coming decades.

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