How does this relate to public health?
Seasonal trends in morbidity and mortality can be attributed to seasonal extremes of hot and cold temperatures, influenza, and allergies. Latitude is associated with heat-related deaths. People who live in more southern cities are more vulnerable during events of colder temperatures, while people in more northern cities are more vulnerable during events of warmer temperatures.1
Annual Influenza-like Illness Trends (2008-2013)
Figure F: Percentage of visits for influenza-like illnesses have been exceptionally high in the first few weeks of 2012-2013 season.
Data retrieved from http://www.flu.nc.gov/data/
Mid-latitude cities, such those in North Carolina, tend to experience greater summer climate variability. These cities are also expected to experience the greatest increase in summertime heat-related deaths as a result of climate change.2
Influenza or flu activity peaks during the winter months in the U.S., particularly during the month of February.3 Researchers in New York City have developed a new weather modeling technique that factors in periods of dry weather, and therefore can predict the timing and severity of seasonal influenza outbreaks up to eight weeks out. Flu forecasts could alert residents to take extra precaution by getting vaccinated, and public health professionals to ensure sufficient stockpiles of vaccines and antiviral drugs.4
Figure G: A qualified nurse administers the FluMistÂ® flu vaccine.
Image from http://phil.cdc.gov/phil/details.asp
An earlier onset of the pollen season in the U.S. due to climate change may lead to greater exposure to allergens, which in turn may worsen allergic conditions such as asthma or allergic rhinitis (hay fever).5,6
1Curreiro, FC; et al. 2002.Temperature and mortality in 11 cities of the eastern United States. American Journal of Epidemiology. Jan 1;155(1)80-7.
2Portier CJ, et al. 2010. A human health perspective on climate change: a report outlining the research needs on the human health effects of climate change. Research Triangle Park, NC: Environmental Health Perspectives/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. doi:10.1289/ehp.1002272 <www.niehs.nih.gov/climatereport> Accessed November 17, 2012.
3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD). October 12, 2012. Seasonal Influenza (Flu). <http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm> Accessed November 17, 2012.
4Science Codex. Flu outbreaks predicted with weather forecast techniques. November 27, 2012. <http://www.sciencecodex.com/flu_outbreaks_predicted_with_weather_forecast_techniques-102754> Accessed December 6, 2012.
5Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007. M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. <http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/ch8s8-2-7.html> Accessed November 17, 2012.
6Environmental Protection Agency. Climate change: Human impacts and adaptation. June 14, 2012. <http://epa.gov/climatechange/impacts-adaptation/health.html#impactsreducedair> Accessed November 17, 2012.