This issue, EARTH Magazine explores the world's top weather-related killer: exposure to extreme heat. Humans' response to extreme heat leads to heat stress, an illness related to the body's inability to cool itself. Humidity plays a crucial role, because as humidity increases, the ability of sweat to evaporate and cool the body decreases.
Children born during, and up to three years after, the devastating 1997-1998 El Niño event in northern Peru were found to be shorter than their peers in a new study covered in EARTH Magazine. The rising waters wiped out crops, drowned livestock, cut off bridges, and caused prolonged famine in many rural villages. Now, a new study that tracked long-term health impacts on children from the affected region has found that a decade later, the children continue to bear signs of the hardship endured early in their lives.
Doctors and public health officials are concerned about the growing number of antibiotic-resistant superbugs like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA, and Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, as well as more common, yet still dangerous, bacteria like E. coli and Staphylococcus epidermidis. Now, doctors and public health officials may have a surprising ally in the fight against these bacteria: natural clays. According to a new study, clays with antibacterial properties found near Crater Lake in Oregon could eventually lead to new agents in the fight against these bacteria.
Valley Fever — a sometimes-fatal infection with no known cure and no vaccine — is caused by a soilborne fungus that thrives in the hot, dry soils of the southwestern U.S., Mexico and Central and South America. However, recent reports of infections far outside the endemic area indicate the fungus is either spreading or becoming active in new areas. The disease is contracted through inhalation of fungal spores, which can be aerosolized by soil disturbances from construction, excavation, gardening and landscaping, as well as natural events like dust storms, earthquakes, landslides and wildfires. Geoscientists working in the field need to take precautions against contracting the disease.
What do changes in weather and stressed-out birds have to do with your health? In a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jeffry Shaman of Columbia University and Marc Lipsitch of Harvard University are beginning to see a new link between La Nina conditions and outbreaks of the flu that could help governments and public health officials determine when the next pandemic will strike.