T.h.e I.m.p.a.c.t o.f G.l.o.b.a.l W.a.r.m.i.n.g o.n M.e.d.i.c.i.n.e
It is recognized that any increase in temperature will have its almost immediate impact on health and medicine. The rise in atmospheric temperature would have it most direct effect on the tropics. Many infectious and parasitic diseases are spread by intermediate hosts: insects, snails, and small arthropods such as ticks. These carriers would become more widespread, taking with them yellow fever, malaria, and much else.
An example of this would be the African form of sleeping sickness. It is currently confined to the inner part of the continent, but with a warming of about 2°C, its insect carrier (i.e. tsetse fly) would shift southwards with potentially severe consequences for human and cattle.
The problem of global warming has also caused the once nearly-eliminated Malaria to become more widespread. Any increase in temperature would favor the return of the anopheline mosquito that carries the malaria parasite. And these events would be happening at a time when both the parasite and its insect vector are increasingly resistant to the insecticides used against them, and when a vaccine is not yet in commercial production.
Low rainfall would enlarge the areas with periodic droughts, thus increasing the risk of malnutrition. This in turn increases the chances of tuberculosis, leprosy and polio. The water shortage will also cause a deterioration in hygiene and public health. Poorer sanitation and contaminated water would encourage the spread of cholera, typhoid and other diseases.
Pollution also presents the future with doubts. The worldwide increase in traffic has flooded the urban atmospheres with nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons. With the influence of ultraviolet light, certain products of motor exhausts react with the ozone. These products also damages the delicate membranes lining the airways in the human body, further increasing the number of people who suffer from asthma.
The consequences of the withering of ozone layer are already seen in the rising level of skin cancer in some parts of the world. It is also believed, though not proven, that increased exposure to ultraviolet light dampens the immune response gradually.
At the present stage we cannot tell if these things will happen, but if they do, medicine will find itself having to adapt to new patterns of disease, and facing some unimaginable challenges.
EPA Global Warming Site
Global Warming: Focus on the future