From: Reuters
Published April 7, 2008 05:05 AM

Climate change a factor in deaths from disease: WHO

MANILA (Reuters) - Climate change is one of the factors causing an increase in the incidence of diseases like malaria and dengue fever, the World Health Organization said on Monday.

At least 150,000 more people are dying each year of malaria, diarrhea, malnutrition and floods, all of which can be traced to climate change, said Shigeru Omi, the head of the WHO's Western Pacific office.

More than half of those deaths are in Asia, Omi told reporters.

"Malaria-carrying mosquitos are now found in areas where there was no malaria before," he said, saying they were spreading to cooler climes from the tropics.

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"For dengue, there are many other factors responsible for the rise of the mosquitos. But I am sure that climate change is certainly playing one of the many roles, that much we can say."

Malaria kills at least 100,000 people each year. WHO also estimates that there may be 50 million cases of dengue infection around the world every year, of which half a million will require hospitalization.

About 12,500 of the cases will be fatal.

Climate change is also causing sea levels to rise, rivers to dry up and weather patterns to become erratic, Omi said. Floods, drought and heatwaves are taking a toll on human health, he said.

Omi said the WHO is setting aside $10 million for an advocacy program to inform people and governments about the health dangers of climate change.

Less consumption of energy and advances in technology to lower carbon emissions will be crucial, he said.

"In my office, we don't wear neckties any more, unless it is a very formal occasion," he said, adding that this led to less use of air conditioning.

"There are many things ordinary citizens can do to avoid unnecessary use of electricity."

(Reporting by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

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