The United States is facing an invasion of parasites. Ecologist Dipika Kadaba carefully compiled data from multiple recent scientific studies into a single heat map of 10 key diseases that could spread or worsen in the coming years thanks to climate change.
Since the planet is getting warmer and weather patterns, in general, are changing, it follows that insects and pathogens will migrate as a response. But seeing actual diseases tagged to precise geographical areas turns that rational theory into shivers of irrational fear. Live in New York? Look out for mosquitoes carrying dengue fever. Chicago you say? Meat allergy and trypanosomiasis. Los Angeles? Plague for you. San Francisco? West Nile Fever and trypanosomiasis. Miami? Get out of there (no reason in particular, just get out).
Kadaba combined multiple sources to create the map, listing infectious diseases spread by mosquitoes, ticks, sandflies, fleas, assassin bugs, and flies. Many of these insects were never a problem because it was too cold for them to live here. Others already lived here, like the deer tick populations in the northeast. However, as Kadaba points out, the increasing temperatures have made it possible for these populations to thrive even through winter, multiplying the number of cases of anaplasmosis (a more severe version of lyme disease carried by the same parasite) by 30.
The map colors each county from pale yellow to dark purple based on the number of diseases predicted to see an influx. Those include anaplasmosis, along with lyme, dengue, leishmaniasis, meat allergy, malaria, West Nile fever, trypanosomiasis, zika, and the plague–the infamous medieval disease that causes fever, extreme pain, seizures, high fever, diarrhea, organ damage, and death–which is predicted to pop all the way up to the Canadian border.
According to Kadaba, the visualization “does not represent a single future scenario but paints a broad picture of possible future threats.” Which kind of feels like a relief–until you remember that Trump wants to slash the Center for Disease Control’s budget by 80%. My favorite caveat, however, is this: “[T]hese are just 10 of many possible diseases, and diseases that are already established in your area may not show up in this search.”
Good luck out there, everyone!