Special Issue "Climate-Change Effects on the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases and the Impacts on Northern Societies "

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Climate Change".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 April 2022.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Birgitta Evengård
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Clinical Microbiology, UMEA University, 901 87 Umeå, Sweden
Interests: infectious diseases; human health; climate change; arctic issues; epidemiology; parasitology; diagnostics
Dr. Tomas Thierfelder
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Energy and Technology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

A key objective: to clarify the impacts of climate change on humans and animals among animal husbandry households, which are particularly exposed and sensitive to such changes, through the changed geographical distribution and epidemiology of CSI. We have further aimed to turn this new understanding into practical tools for decision-makers responsible for the development of northern societies, both by providing relevant data in an accessible form and by contributing to the development of an early warning system for increased risk of spread of CSI at the local level.

CLINF addresses a central issue in planning for responsible development in the North: understanding the impact of climate change on the geographical distribution and epidemiology of climate sensitive infections (CSIs) and the consequences for Arctic health, economies, and societies. This has been a neglected problem that is likely to have a profound effect on northern societies, and a key objective of CLINF has been to clarify the effects on humans and animals, especially among animal husbandry households, which are particularly exposed and sensitive to such changes. As a result, CLINF is almost entirely concerned with impacts. However, we have gone further to turn this new understanding into practical tools for decision-makers responsible for the development of northern societies. Disease does not respect national boundaries, and the problem addressed by CLINF is a challenge faced across the pan-Arctic region. Our major efforts are focused on Nordic datasets and Nordic problems, but Russian colleagues have also been involved. CLINF has assembled an outstanding multidisciplinary team with high international profiles, and it aims to deliver international class science that meets societal needs using methods that can be applied across the Arctic. What follows should therefore be understood in this international context.

Dr. Birgitta Evengård
Dr. Tomas Thierfelder
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • climate change
  • Arctic
  • infectious diseases
  • One Health
  • societal impacts

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

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Article
Associating Land Cover Changes with Patterns of Incidences of Climate-Sensitive Infections: An Example on Tick-Borne Diseases in the Nordic Area
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(20), 10963; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182010963 - 19 Oct 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 660
Abstract
Some of the climate-sensitive infections (CSIs) affecting humans are zoonotic vector-borne diseases, such as Lyme borreliosis (BOR) and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), mostly linked to various species of ticks as vectors. Due to climate change, the geographical distribution of tick species, their hosts, and [...] Read more.
Some of the climate-sensitive infections (CSIs) affecting humans are zoonotic vector-borne diseases, such as Lyme borreliosis (BOR) and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), mostly linked to various species of ticks as vectors. Due to climate change, the geographical distribution of tick species, their hosts, and the prevalence of pathogens are likely to change. A recent increase in human incidences of these CSIs in the Nordic regions might indicate an expansion of the range of ticks and hosts, with vegetation changes acting as potential predictors linked to habitat suitability. In this paper, we study districts in Fennoscandia and Russia where incidences of BOR and TBE have steadily increased over the 1995–2015 period (defined as ’Well Increasing districts’). This selection is taken as a proxy for increasing the prevalence of tick-borne pathogens due to increased habitat suitability for ticks and hosts, thus simplifying the multiple factors that explain incidence variations. This approach allows vegetation types and strengths of correlation specific to the WI districts to be differentiated and compared with associations found over all districts. Land cover types and their changes found to be associated with increasing human disease incidence are described, indicating zones with potential future higher risk of these diseases. Combining vegetation cover and climate variables in regression models shows the interplay of biotic and abiotic factors linked to CSI incidences and identifies some differences between BOR and TBE. Regression model projections up until 2070 under different climate scenarios depict possible CSI progressions within the studied area and are consistent with the observed changes over the past 20 years. Full article
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Article
Screening of Eurasian Tundra Reindeer for Viral Sequences by Next-Generation Sequencing
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(12), 6561; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18126561 - 18 Jun 2021
Viewed by 1015
Abstract
Reindeer husbandry is essential for the livelihood and culture of indigenous people in the Arctic. Parts of the herding areas are also used as pastures for farm animals, facilitating potential transmission of viruses between species. Following the Covid-19 pandemic, viruses circulating in the [...] Read more.
Reindeer husbandry is essential for the livelihood and culture of indigenous people in the Arctic. Parts of the herding areas are also used as pastures for farm animals, facilitating potential transmission of viruses between species. Following the Covid-19 pandemic, viruses circulating in the wild are receiving increased attention, since they might pose a potential threat to human health. Climate change will influence the prevalence of infectious diseases of both humans and animals. The aim of this study was to detect known and previously unknown viruses in Eurasian tundra reindeer. In total, 623 nasal and 477 rectal swab samples were collected from reindeer herds in Fennoscandia, Iceland, and Eastern Russia during 2016–2019. Next-generation sequencing analysis and BLAST-homology searches indicated the presence of viruses of domesticated and wild animals, such as bovine viral diarrhea virus, bovine papillomavirus, alcephaline herpesvirus 1 and 2, deer mastadenovirus B, bovine rotavirus, and roe deer picobirnavirus. Several viral species previously found in reindeer and some novel species were detected, although the clinical relevance of these viruses in reindeer is largely unknown. These results indicate that it should be possible to find emerging viruses of relevance for both human and animal health using reindeer as a sentinel species. Full article
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Article
Study of the Relationship between the Average Annual Temperature of Atmospheric Air and the Number of Tick-Bitten Humans in the North of European Russia
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 8006; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17218006 - 30 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 694
Abstract
In recent decades, a considerable increase in the number of tick-bitten humans has been recorded in the north of European Russia. At the same time, significant climatic changes, such as an increase in air temperature, were noticed in this region. The northern border [...] Read more.
In recent decades, a considerable increase in the number of tick-bitten humans has been recorded in the north of European Russia. At the same time, significant climatic changes, such as an increase in air temperature, were noticed in this region. The northern border of the ixodidae distribution area lies in the north of European Russia, therefore the analysis of the population dynamics is of particular interest regarding the possible impact of the climate changes. Unfortunately, in such a large territory field, studies on tick abundance are very difficult. In our study, the official statistics for the number of tick-bitten humans were used. This kind of statistical analysis has been conducted in the Russian Federation for many years, and can be used for the estimation of climate change impact on tick abundance. Statistical data on tick-bitten humans have been collected in three large regions for several decades. For the same regions, the average annual air temperature was calculated and modeled. An S-shaped distribution of the number of victims depending on the average annual air temperature was established, which can be described as “Verhulst’s law”, or logistic function. However, the development of the population does not depend on time, but on the temperature of the ambient air. Full article
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Article
Emerging Natural Focal Infectious Diseases in Russia: A Medical–Geographical Study
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 8005; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17218005 - 30 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 857
Abstract
In Russia, as in other countries, the problem of emerging natural focal infectious diseases (EIDs) became more acute toward the end of the 20th century. However, the situation in Russia is unknown to foreign readers, while the prevention and control of these diseases [...] Read more.
In Russia, as in other countries, the problem of emerging natural focal infectious diseases (EIDs) became more acute toward the end of the 20th century. However, the situation in Russia is unknown to foreign readers, while the prevention and control of these diseases require international collaboration. The aim of the study is to provide a medical–geographical assessment of the distribution of the main natural focal EIDs in Russia, as well as to present the approaches used in the country to create aggregate maps of risk assessment. To consider its current status, we determined the most important natural focal EIDs for Russia (tick-borne encephalitis, ixodid tick-borne borrelioses, hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever, West Nile fever, Astrakhan spotted fever, leptospiroses, and tularemia) and analyzed the patterns of their epidemic manifestation. As a result, a working classification of such infections and a series of maps showing the current situation of EID morbidity in Russia were created. To design an aggregated risk map, we developed an original mapping methodology and recalculated the model disease incidence by taking data from administrative units and adjusting them for natural geographical boundaries (biomes) for European Russia, and then evaluated the risk of infection for separate model diseases and for a set of them. The highest risk rates are confined to the northwest regions of European Russia, the Cis-Urals and the Volga region, which are naturally related to forest biomes, as well as to the southern steppe regions of the interfluves between the Volga and the Don, and the foothills of the North Caucasus. Full article
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Article
Implications of Projected Hydroclimatic Change for Tularemia Outbreaks in High-Risk Areas across Sweden
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(18), 6786; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17186786 - 17 Sep 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 814
Abstract
Hydroclimatic change may affect the range of some infectious diseases, including tularemia. Previous studies have investigated associations between tularemia incidence and climate variables, with some also establishing quantitative statistical disease models based on historical data, but studies considering future climate projections are scarce. [...] Read more.
Hydroclimatic change may affect the range of some infectious diseases, including tularemia. Previous studies have investigated associations between tularemia incidence and climate variables, with some also establishing quantitative statistical disease models based on historical data, but studies considering future climate projections are scarce. This study has used and combined hydro-climatic projection outputs from multiple global climate models (GCMs) in phase six of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6), and site-specific, parameterized statistical tularemia models, which all imply some type of power-law scaling with preceding-year tularemia cases, to assess possible future trends in disease outbreaks for six counties across Sweden, known to include tularemia high-risk areas. Three radiative forcing (emissions) scenarios are considered for climate change projection until year 2100, incuding low (2.6 Wm−2), medium (4.5 Wm−2), and high (8.5 Wm−2) forcing. The results show highly divergent changes in future disease outbreaks among Swedish counties, depending primarily on site-specific type of the best-fit disease power-law scaling characteristics of (mostly positive, in one case negative) sub- or super-linearity. Results also show that scenarios of steeper future climate warming do not necessarily lead to steeper increase of future disease outbreaks. Along a latitudinal gradient, the likely most realistic medium climate forcing scenario indicates future disease decreases (intermittent or overall) for the relatively southern Swedish counties Örebro and Gävleborg (Ockelbo), respectively, and disease increases of considerable or high degree for the intermediate (Dalarna, Gävleborg (Ljusdal)) and more northern (Jämtland, Norrbotten; along with the more southern Värmland exception) counties, respectively. Full article
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Article
Spreading or Gathering? Can Traditional Knowledge Be a Resource to Tackle Reindeer Diseases Associated with Climate Change?
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(16), 6002; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17166002 - 18 Aug 2020
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Abstract
This paper inquires whether reindeer herders’ traditional knowledge (TK) provides a reservoir of precaution and adaptation possibilities that may be relevant to counteract climate change. As our core example, we used the milking of reindeer—which, in some areas, was practiced up until the [...] Read more.
This paper inquires whether reindeer herders’ traditional knowledge (TK) provides a reservoir of precaution and adaptation possibilities that may be relevant to counteract climate change. As our core example, we used the milking of reindeer—which, in some areas, was practiced up until the 1950s–1960s—and the risk of getting foot rot disease (digital necrobacillosis; slubbo in North Sámi), caused by the bacterium Fusobacterium necrophorum. Via wounds or scratches, the bacterium creates an infection that makes the infected limb swell and, eventually, necrotize. The disease is often mortal in its final stage. Historically, female reindeer were gathered on unfenced milking meadows near herder tents or in small corrals, from early summer onward. When the soil was wet and muddy, the risk of developing digital necrobacillosis was considerable. Our sources included classical Sámi author/herder narratives, ethnographic and veterinary literature, and herder interviews. For this study, we conducted a qualitative review of the literature and carried out individual in-depth interviews with local knowledge holders. Our findings seem consistent: a documented prevention strategy was, in early summer, to move the reindeer to unused grazing land and to avoid staying too long in trampled and dirty grazing land. Contemporary climate change and winter uncertainty due to freeze–thaw cycles and ice-locked pastures challenge this type of strategy. Due to a lack of pasture resources, typical actions today include the increased use of supplementary feeding, which involves more gathering and handling of reindeer, higher animal density, challenging hygienic conditions, and stress, which all contribute to increased risks of contracting and transmitting diseases. Full article
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Review

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Review
Climate Change in the Arctic—The Need for a Broader Gender Perspective in Data Collection
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(2), 628; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18020628 - 13 Jan 2021
Viewed by 1118
Abstract
Climate change in the Arctic affects both environmental, animal, and human health, as well as human wellbeing and societal development. Women and men, and girls and boys are affected differently. Sex-disaggregated data collection is increasingly carried out as a routine in human health [...] Read more.
Climate change in the Arctic affects both environmental, animal, and human health, as well as human wellbeing and societal development. Women and men, and girls and boys are affected differently. Sex-disaggregated data collection is increasingly carried out as a routine in human health research and in healthcare analysis. This study involved a literature review and used a case study design to analyze gender differences in the roles and responsibilities of men and women residing in the Arctic. The theoretical background for gender-analysis is here described together with examples from the Russian Arctic and a literature search. We conclude that a broader gender-analysis of sex-disaggregated data followed by actions is a question of human rights and also of economic benefits for societies at large and of the quality of services as in the health care. Full article
Review
Healthy Ecosystems Are a Prerequisite for Human Health—A Call for Action in the Era of Climate Change with a Focus on Russia
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(22), 8453; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17228453 - 15 Nov 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1106
Abstract
Throughout history, humans have experienced epidemics. The balance of living in nature encircled by microorganisms is delicate. More than 70% of today’s emerging infections are zoonotic, i.e., those in which microorganisms transmitted from animals infect humans. Species are on the move at speeds [...] Read more.
Throughout history, humans have experienced epidemics. The balance of living in nature encircled by microorganisms is delicate. More than 70% of today’s emerging infections are zoonotic, i.e., those in which microorganisms transmitted from animals infect humans. Species are on the move at speeds never previously recorded, among ongoing climate change which is especially rapid at high latitudes. This calls for intensified international surveillance of Northern infectious diseases. Russia holds the largest area of thawing permafrost among Northern nations, a process which threatens to rapidly disrupt the balance of nature. In this paper, we provide details regarding Russian health infrastructure in order to take the first steps toward a collaborative international survey of Northern infections and international harmonization of the procured data. Full article
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Review
A Mini-Review of Ixodes Ticks Climate Sensitive Infection Dispersion Risk in the Nordic Region
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(15), 5387; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17155387 - 27 Jul 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1436
Abstract
Climate change in the Nordic countries is projected to lead to both wetter and warmer seasons. This, in combination with associated vegetation changes and increased animal migration, increases the potential incidence of tick-borne diseases (TBD) where already occurring, and emergence in new places. [...] Read more.
Climate change in the Nordic countries is projected to lead to both wetter and warmer seasons. This, in combination with associated vegetation changes and increased animal migration, increases the potential incidence of tick-borne diseases (TBD) where already occurring, and emergence in new places. At the same time, vegetation and animal management influence tick habitat and transmission risks. In this paper, we review the literature on Ixodes ricinus, the primary vector for TBD. Current and projected distribution changes and associated disease transmission risks are related to climate constraints and climate change, and this risk is discussed in the specific context of reindeer management. Our results indicate that climatic limitations for vectors and hosts, and environmental and societal/institutional conditions will have a significant role in determining the spreading of climate-sensitive infections (CSIs) under a changing climate. Management emerges as an important regulatory “tool” for tick and/or risk for disease transfer. In particular, shrub encroachment, and pasture and animal management, are important. The results underscore the need to take a seasonal view of TBD risks, such as (1) grazing and migratory (host) animal presence, (2) tick (vector) activity, (3) climate and vegetation, and (4) land and animal management, which all have seasonal cycles that may or may not coincide with different consequences of climate change on CSI migration. We conclude that risk management must be coordinated across the regions, and with other land-use management plans related to climate mitigation or food production to understand and address the changes in CSI risks. Full article
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Other

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Case Report
Lethal Outcome of Leptospirosis in Southern Russia: Characterization of Leptospira Interrogans Isolated from a Deceased Teenager
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(12), 4238; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17124238 - 14 Jun 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1024
Abstract
This article describes a lethal case of leptospirosis that occurred in Southern Russia. The Leptospira strain was isolated and characterized using a microscopic agglutination test, MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry, targeted PCR, and high-throughput sequencing. We show that molecular and mass-spectrometry methods can be an [...] Read more.
This article describes a lethal case of leptospirosis that occurred in Southern Russia. The Leptospira strain was isolated and characterized using a microscopic agglutination test, MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry, targeted PCR, and high-throughput sequencing. We show that molecular and mass-spectrometry methods can be an alternative to conventional methods of leptospirosis diagnostics and Leptospira study, which require highly qualified staff and can be performed only at specialized laboratories. We also report the first whole genome of L. interrogans isolated in Russia. Full article
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