U.S – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (USDA’s ERS) has sounded the alarm on the economic consequences of climate change-driven foodborne Vibrio infections.

As sea surface temperatures continue to rise due to global warming, the range and season of Vibrio infections are projected to expand, leading to potential financial strains for the nation.

The effects of climate change are already evident, with instances of Vibrio outbreaks occurring in unexpected regions.

Notably, in 2004, a Vibrio outbreak hit Alaska, a startling 600 miles north of any previously recorded cases. In regions like Oregon and Washington, Vibrio infections, once rare, have become regular occurrences.

To gauge the potential economic burden of Vibrio infections, USDA’s ERS, in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and private consulting firm Industrial Economics Inc. (IEc), studied data on sea surface temperatures and non-cholera Vibrio infection surveillance.

The projections indicate that as ocean temperatures continue to warm, the number of non-cholera Vibrio infection cases in the U.S. may increase by 50–100 percent by 2090, compared to 1995 levels.

The magnitude of the increase depends on the extent of global climate change mitigation efforts taken. As a consequence, the annual total cost of Vibrio infections could escalate to a staggering U.S$6.1–$8.6 billion (in 2022 dollars) by 2090, a significant rise from the U.S$2.6 billion recorded in 1995.

The per-case cost estimates of Vibrio infections encompass various factors, including medical or treatment expenses, productivity losses, and the value of premature deaths. Remarkably, approximately 95 percent of the projected total estimated costs are attributed to deaths caused by Vibrio infections.

The findings underscore the urgency of taking bold action against climate change. As warming oceans continue to drive the proliferation of Vibrio infections, the consequences extend beyond public health to significant economic burdens for individuals, families, and society as a whole.

Call for adaptation, resilience

In response to the growing threat of Vibrio infections, it becomes crucial for communities, health systems, and policymakers to enhance their adaptive capacities and build resilience.

Strengthening disease surveillance and implementing effective public health measures are vital steps to mitigate the potential impacts of Vibrio infections.

Addressing the economic burden of foodborne Vibrio infections requires collective efforts from all sectors.

Government agencies, scientific institutions, businesses, and citizens must unite to accelerate climate change mitigation strategies and foster sustainable practices that safeguard public health and the environment.

The USDA’s ERS report serves as a reminder of the urgent need for comprehensive climate change mitigation efforts.

It comes at a time when global leaders are convening to discuss climate action and sustainability at various international forums.

The findings highlight the necessity of adopting innovative solutions to combat climate change and protect communities from the far-reaching impacts of warming oceans.

By joining forces, nations can pave the way towards a more resilient and sustainable future for generations to come.

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