Climate Change behind Increase in Severity of Flu Epidemics

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
(photo: Heather Leiphart, AP, Odessa American)

Global warming could mean more severe flu seasons, according to a new academic study.


As climate change causes milder temperatures in winter, the immediate effect is a reduction in influenza cases. However, the following year tends to produce worse flu outbreaks due to lessened immunity, experts said in the online journal PLOS Currents.


“It appears that fewer people contract influenza during warm winters, and this causes a major portion of the population to remain vulnerable into the next season, causing an early and strong emergence,” said Sherry Towers of Arizona State University, the lead author of the study, which analyzed climate patterns and flu cases from 1997 to the present.  


“And when a flu season begins exceptionally early, much of the population has not had a chance to get vaccinated, potentially making that flu season even worse,” Towers added.


The experts noted that their conclusions could prevent flu outbreaks by encouraging people to get vaccinations following a mild winter.


They expect that their research results will likely apply for years to come. “In the event of continued global warming, warmer than average winters are expected to occur more frequently,” said the study, which is “a harbinger of the likelihood of an unusually severe [flu] season to come.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Climate Change And The Flu: Warm Winters Followed By Severe Flu Seasons (by Jeff Spross, ThinkProgress)

Climate Change and Influenza: The Likelihood of Early and Severe Influenza Seasons Following Warmer than Average Winters (by Sherry Towers, Gerardo Chowell, Rasheed Hameed, Matthew Jastrebski, Maryam Khan, Jonathan Meeks, Anuj Mubayi and George Harris; PLOS Currents)

Insurers Prepare for Climate Change…Except in U.S. (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Swine Flu Stirred Profits, but Fewer Deaths than Predicted (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


gsgs 6 years ago
wait ... a warm winter results in fewer infections which result in fewer immunity which results in more infections the next season. So global warming is bad for flu ... although it produces fewer infections in the first place ?? Those that get infected in the next winter due to lacking immunity from avoided infection in the winter before cannot be more than those who avoided it in the first place

Leave a comment