Climate change and cattle diseases


THE long-term future of the earth’s climate is uncertain.
Equally, the impact of climate change on biodiversity and on tick-borne diseases is unpredictable.
While human development is transforming most of the earth’s natural ecological systems, the health impacts of ecosystem alteration are still poorly understood.
Human behaviour and awareness is also a strong determinant of environmental, animal and human health.
Due to climate change, cattle and other livestock the world over are experiencing both ecological and biological stress which could affect the wellbeing of livestock globally and ultimately the well-being of man.
Thus, the issues of global changes, climate change and tick-borne diseases cannot be ignored, given they are becoming the order of the day.
Though Zimbabwe has, in the 2017/2018 farming season, partly recovered from the effects of the tick-borne disease, Theileriosis, on the national herd, world concerns about climate change and its effects, on ticks, particularly on livestock, need to be heeded.
The scientific evidence for rapid climate change is compelling and alarming. Most experts in the field have now reached a consensus — the earth’s climate is indeed changing.
Zimbabwe needs to be forewarned and in a state of preparedness for these far-reaching changes and consequences.
According to experts, climate change is modifying the environment where we live and our way of living For instance, global warming is booming the market for air conditioning, which is expected to grow in the coming decades.
This explosive growth of the air conditioning market and the increased fossil fuel burning in response to increased temperatures may contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and, again to global warming.
Indeed, the discovery that chlorofluorocarbons are major contributors to ozone layer breakdown, has resulted in their replacement by hydrochlorofluorocarbons and, more recently, by the use of hydrofluorocarbons.
Hydrofluorocarbons are said to be better coolants and have no impact on ozone depletion, but they are super-greenhouse gases with high potential to contribute to global warming.
Since the Industrial Revolution in the First World, increased greenhouse gas emissions (combustion of fossil fuels for electricity and heat generation, transportation and manufacturing, land use changes) have greatly contributed to the natural greenhouse gas effect.
Over the past 4,5 billion years, our planet has passed through ice ages and warmer interglacial periods such as the present Holocene epoch that began about 10 000 years ago.
The planet has also witnessed at least five big extinctions and, throughout these years, it has shaped its surface, pretty much aided and abated by the world’s most dominant species — homo sapiens.
Indeed, when our ancestors made the decision to move out from the cradle of mankind, Africa, humankind embarked on a journey of no return.
The 6th mass extinction is now awaited. In fact, many of the global changes we are witnessing in the present days may be partly attributed to anthropogenic factors.
Since ancient times, humans have hunted wild animals for food, cut down and decimated forests for multiple reasons, including for building villages (towns, metropolis and megalopolis), for crop plantation, cattle grazing, dam building and road construction.
Tropical deforestation, mainly for grazing cattle and cropland expansion consequently created a drier, hotter climate in the tropics.
The burden of vector-borne and climate-sensitive diseases is greatest for the poorest populations, especially in Africa.
For example, the per capita mortality rate from vector-borne diseases is almost 300 times greater in developing nations than in developed regions.
In addition, vector-borne disease risks are typically much greater for poor individuals within any population, owing to poorer environmental and social conditions (lower-quality housing situated closer to vector-breeding sites) as well as lack of access to preventive and curative health interventions and services, particularly the rural communities.
Every year, many cattle herds in Africa are depleted from vector-borne diseases such as Theileriosis according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
On the occasion of the Impact of Environmental Changes on Infectious Diseases (IECID) meeting held in Spain in 2015, a keynote talk was given on climate change, biodiversity, ticks and tick-borne diseases, which revealed the inter-dependency of climate and the ecology and how they impact on tick-borne diseases.
Vector-borne diseases are among the most well studied of the diseases associated with climate change, owing to their large disease burden, widespread occurrence and high sensitivity to climatic factors.
(To be continued…)
Dr Tony Monda is a writer, an agro-researcher, critic and Heritage Studies consultant. He holds a PhD in Art Theory and Philosophy, and a DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration) and Post-Colonial Heritage Studies.


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