You don’t have to wait decades to witness the impacts of climate change in the United States. Just ask people like Mark Elwin, a carpenter in Maine whose life was devastated after he was infected by a blood parasite.
The infection caused severe fever and pain that required Elwin to be hospitalized, and eventually left him unable to return to his job. He’s one of thousands of Americans who have already become victims of the tick-borne diseases outbreaks currently spreading across the Northeast because of warming temperatures.
As average temperatures across the United States and the rest of the world climb, disease-carrying ticks and insects have started spreading farther north, reaching places where winters were previously too long and cold for them to survive. Tick populations in wintery Maine, for instance, have exploded, causing cases of some diseases to multiply by 30 times in just the past decade.
Scientists have predicted that climate change is creating prime conditions for the spread of insects and contagions — bringing cases of plague from memories of medieval history to California’s Silicon Valley and tropical blood parasites to the plains of Nebraska. Some Texans could even become allergic to eating meat as a result of tick bites.
Despite these predictions President Trump has slashed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s budget to fight global epidemics by 80 percent. Although most of this funding goes to efforts in other countries, critics say the cut leaves the United States vulnerable to diseases that could be introduced to the country.
Speaking to the Boston Globe, Daniel Brooks, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Nebraska, explained: ‘‘The warmer the planet gets, the more pathogens and vectors from the tropics and subtropics are going to move into the temperate zones. Countries such as the United States tend to have a false sense of security, but vectors and pathogens don’t understand international boundaries. You can’t just put up a fence to keep them out.’’
How could this affect you? Below, explore the counties where scientists predict 10 key diseases could spread or worsen because of climate change.
(Mobile users: click counties to select; desktop users: mouse over for results. The darker the county, the greater the disease risk.)
Get a closer look: Enter your ZIP code for more information about disease risks in your town or city.
Remember, these are just 10 of many possible diseases, and diseases that are already established in your area may not show up in this search.