An Upcoming Disease Outbreak

Dylan Hamme, Reporter

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An Upcoming Disease Outbreak


With climate change warming the earth, permafrost that has stayed frozen for thousands of years contains ancient viruses and bacteria that are coming back. Diseases like bubonic plague, smallpox, anthrax, and hundreds of others, have began mutating. When Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, almost a hundred years ago, we got antibiotics. However, every time an antibiotic is used, certain bacteria may survive the antibiotic, and by natural selection, the bacteria can reproduce, resulting in it mutating and becoming immune to antibiotics. Not only this, but viruses have begun springing up. Vaccines and antibiotics take a long time to create, and with so many diseases coming up at once, this could be an apocalyptic event.


In August of 2016, in the Yamal Peninsula, part of Siberia in the Arctic Circle, a 12-year-old died of anthrax, and more than 20 people were infected and hospitalized as well. Scientists believe that approximately 75 years ago, a reindeer infected with anthrax died, and its carcass was frozen under a layer of soil, in permafrost. Anthrax is a bacterial disease, and as the process of freezing often can preserve organisms, the bacteria could survive through the permafrost, even potentially for a million years. The reindeer was exposed, and it infected the water and soil with anthrax. This led to the infection of more than 2,000 reindeer nearby.
As climate change warms the Earth, permafrost will continue melting. Global warming is exposing older permafrost layers. The temperature of the Arctic Circle is rising about three times more than the rest of the world. As the ice and permafrost are melting, more diseases may be released into the open. Permafrost is very good at preserving microbes and viruses, as it is cold, devoid of oxygen, and dark. Diseases that have caused epidemics, such as the cholera outbreak (third cholera pandemic) in Russia from 1852-1856, killing roughly 1 million people, the bubonic plague outbreak (The Black Death) in Europe, from 1346-1453, killing one third of Europe’s population (roughly 75-200 million people), or the epidemic that killed roughly 30-90% of the population of Southern New England from 1616-1619, not to mention possible diseases we have never even seen or heard of, could rise up. Scientists from NASA brought bacteria to life that had been in a frozen pond in Alaska for 32,000 years. Scientists found bacteria revived from ice from over 100,000 years ago. The same scientists found an 8-million-year-old bacterium that had been in ice, under a glacier in Antarctica. Global warming is also a problem. In Siberia, the north shore has become more accessible from sea. Industrial exploitation, like mining and drilling, is profitable. A big outbreak is imminent, and we aren’t prepared for it.

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