RSS feed for entries


Zombies like global warming

Amoeba zombies, that is. As a headline in put it, “Brain-eating Amoeba Deaths Spike in Warmer U. S. Climate.” [link not working, deleted, 2007-10-22]

These brain-eaters are for real. They’re amoeba that like warm water, live in lakes, infect swimmers via the nose, migrate to the brain, and start living it up. Naegleria fowleri is said to be very rare. But as lakes warm up, it’s getting less rare.

From the LATimes report:

“This is definitely something we need to track,” said Michael Beach, a specialist in recreational waterborne illnesses with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better. In future decades, as temperatures rise, we’d expect to see more cases.”

To be less tabloid about it, it’s not that many cases. The national yearly average has gone from about 2.3 deaths to 6 this year. But though the absolute numbers are small, that’s more than a doubling. If it does that every ten years, in fifty years we’d be up to some 200 cases. Compare that to a total of 27 SARS cases in the US at the height of that scare in 2003. The country was ready to shut down over that.

Also compare the approximately 10% mortality rate in SARS with the near-100% rate from the zombie amoeba. That’s what it is at this point. Amoebic diseases are notoriously difficult to cure. I could see people start to avoid every fresh body of water, including swimming pools (it turns up in less-than-pristine pools), and having to do that right when it’s 110F outside.

But global warming is nothing to worry about. It’ll be nice to spend less on heating, and to have a Northwest Passage, and to grow corn in Canada. No problem. Nothing to see here.

First posted at Shakesville