Sydeen/Shutterstock

As temperatures rise, tropical diseases move into new territory.

From the known and treatable (Lyme Disease) to the unpronounceable and potentially deadly (Cryptococcus gattii) climate change is giving nasty diseases a leg-up, clearing their way onwards to the U.S.

Increased rainfall, warmer temperatures, dying reefs and hotter oceans are handing diseases that afflict humans - algal, fungal, mosquito-borne, tick-borne - a chance to spread, meaning diseases previously unheard in the U.S. of are now emerging.

George Luber, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says the deadly fungal infection C. gattii, once considered limited to places like Papua New Guinea and Australia, "popped out of nowhere," when it first moved to Vancouver Island around the early 2000s. Scientists were alarmed by its readiness to set up shop in a new climate, well outside its comfort zone. If subtropical C. gattii could settle down in just any backyard, what was next?

"You've got to be prepared, otherwise it will catch you off guard," said Luber, a member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Climate change will drive extreme events leading to the potential for multiple system failures… to upend all of the protections we have in place."

So with that grim warning in mind, Climate Desk has prepared this handy guide to help you identify the nasty critters that could be knocking on your door soon. (A somewhat obvious disclaimer: This is not to be taken as medical advice. If you have symptoms, see a doctor.)

The Climate Desk is a journalistic collaboration between The Atlantic, Mother Jones, Slate, and others, dedicated to exploring the impact—human, environmental, economic, political—of a changing climate. Learn more at theclimatedesk.org.

Top image: Sydeen/Shutterstock.

Infographics courtesy of James West/Climate Desk.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A row of homes under the Montreal sun.
    Perspective

    Why Is the Homebuilding Industry Stuck in the 1940s?

    Embrace pre-fabricated, adaptable homes! Growing inequity, out-of-reach housing prices, and the speed of innovation in energy efficiency and technology demand it.

  2. A large adventure playground with towers and slides.
    Design

    A Short Guide to Tulsa’s New $465 Million Park

    If Volcanoville and Charlie’s Water Mountain aren’t enough for you, what about a boating pond and a skate park?

  3. Equity

    British People Feel Locked Out of London

    Britons who live outside the capital consider it too expensive and crowded for them to live there, a new report finds.

  4. Design

    Mexico City’s $150 Million Rebrand Faces Growing Pains

    Last week, incoming mayor Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo announced a competition to redesign the city’s young logo. The backlash has been swift.

  5. A shuttered factory in Muncie, Indiana
    Environment

    The Toxic Legacy of Urban Industry

    A new book explores the unseen hazards left behind in post-industrial American cities.