Ongoing California Drought Causes Increase in Health Risks
The ongoing drought in California has increased health risks among some residents, HealthyCal reports. The state has been experiencing a drought for four years (Childers, HealthyCal, 9/22).
According to HealthyCal, there has been a spike in air pollution and related respiratory problems in some areas, particularly rural towns in the state.
For example, Sierra View Medical Center in Porterville has reported that the number of patients visiting the emergency department with breathing issues has increased by more than 25% in the last five years.
John Gasman, a pulmonologist and chief of pulmonary services for Kaiser Permanente in Fresno, said, "The drought affects air quality and increases dust and grass fires, leading to allergies, asthma and chronic bronchitis."
In addition, health officials have said that higher temperatures and various state wildfires have added to an increase in acute lung problems. Further, providers are seeing an increase in asthma cases year-round, rather than just during their typical peak in the fall.
Meanwhile, the California Department of Public Health has warned that the drought could create conditions for higher infectious disease activity.
For example, the state last year reported a record number of West Nile virus-related deaths, at 31.
Deborah Bass, public affairs manager for the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District, said, "Drought years are worse for [West Nile] and other mosquito-borne diseases than years with more rain because there are fewer watering holes forcing birds and mosquitoes to congregate at the same location."
The changing climate also has been linked to more cases of Valley Fever.
According to DPH, the number of Valley Fever cases reported jumped from 816 in 2000 to more than 4,000 in 2012.
Other Health Issues
Agricultural regions in the state -- where residents rely on private wells for water -- also are facing issues that could affect their health, such as water shortages or contaminated sources.
In addition, a July U.S. Geological Society survey found that millions of state residents rely on public water sources with contaminants that can cause:
- Gastrointestinal illness;
- Reproductive problems; and
- Neurological disorders (HealthyCal, 9/22).