Climate Change May Impact Waterborne Diseases

Boston, Mass. -- Increased precipitation caused by global warming may increase flooding in some areas, which could lead to drinking water contamination, so a team of Penn State economists is investigating the economic costs associated with a possible increase of waterborne diseases due to climate change.

"Cryptosporidiosis is one of many waterborne diseases whose prevalence could increase with increased precipitation and flooding triggered by climate change," says Dr. Patricia L. Kocagil, postdoctoral associate in agricultural economics.

According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Cryptosporidium parvum, a protozoan parasite, was first recognized in 1976 as producing illness in humans. Causing a diarrheal disease that lasts for one to two weeks in healthy individuals, Cryptosporidium can be fatal among immunocompromised persons.

The researchers, who include Kocagil; Dr. Ann Fisher, senior scientist; and Dr. James Shortle, professor of agricultural economics, are looking at Lancaster County, Pa., to evaluate and assess the problems and costs associated with Cryptosporidiosis outbreaks and the increased risks with global warming.

"So far, there is no medication to cure Crypto, tests for the organism are not routinely done on water supplies, and current detection technology is not always reliable," says Kocagil.

Evaluating what is known about this disease, the researchers told attendees at the spring meeting of the American Geophysical Union Meeting today (May 26) that the cost to society of a current outbreak is about $211 per person. This includes the actual costs of medical care, such as the costs of medication, hospitalization and physicians' services, as well as the cost of time lost from work and leisure activities. Added to that is the cost of trying to avert an outbreak with "boil water" edicts and purchasing or hauling water.

"But this is for an outbreak today, under current ci

Contact: A'ndrea Elyse Messer
Penn State

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