Jerry Brown

Drought Conditions Could Spread Disease

Can the drought impact your health?

Governor Jerry Brown sounded some alarms this week when he said spoke outside of a Metropolitan Water District meeting in downtown Los Angeles, warning Californians that extreme drought could lead to “fires, disease and all sorts of things we don’t ordinarily have to deal with.”

Is that statement fair warning, or fear-mongering?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, drought conditions can lead to the spread of a number of infectious diseases.

For example, the agency says using recycled water to irrigate fields and process food can cause an uptick in e coli and salmonella.

In California, cases of West Nile Virus have spiked in the past several years, a phenomenon the state’s Department of Health says may be a direct result of the drought.

There were only 111 reported cases of West Nile Virus in 2010, and over 800 last year. That’s because as water resources shrink and temperatures get hotter, the length of mosquito season grows, leading to an outbreak.

Those badgering bugs also need to go to greater lengths just to find water.

Then there are respiratory diseases like asthma, which get worse in dry, dusty conditions.

It’s those same conditions that the CDC says can also cause the dreaded Valley Fever, an infection linked to fungus that lives in soils in the Central Valley.

Rates of Valley Fever more than doubled in California from 2009 to 2011. But since then, despite the drought, Valley Fever incidents have actually gone down by nearly half.

Valley Fever may be less of a concern than in years previous, but theoretically drought conditions can make it worse.

Statistically both asthma and West Nile are on the rise, which makes Governor Brown’s claim mostly true.

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