Climate Change Impacts on Waterborne Diseases: Moving Toward Designing Interventions



Climate change threatens progress achieved in global reductions of infectious disease rates over recent decades. This review summarizes literature on potential impacts of climate change on waterborne diseases, organized around a framework of questions that can be addressed depending on available data.

Recent Findings

A growing body of evidence suggests that climate change may alter the incidence of waterborne diseases, and diarrheal diseases in particular. Much of the existing work examines historical relationships between weather and diarrhea incidence, with a limited number of studies projecting future disease rates. Some studies take social and ecological factors into account in considerations of historical relationships, but few have done so in projecting future conditions.


The field is at a point of transition, toward incorporating social and ecological factors into understanding the relationships between climatic factors and diarrheal diseases and using this information for future projections. The integration of these components helps identify vulnerable populations and prioritize adaptation strategies.

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Fig. 1


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Karen Levy is supported by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH (grant 1K01AI103544). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funders.

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Levy, K., Smith, S.M. & Carlton, E.J. Climate Change Impacts on Waterborne Diseases: Moving Toward Designing Interventions. Curr Envir Health Rpt 5, 272–282 (2018).

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  • Climate change
  • Diarrhea
  • Enteric diseases
  • Temperature
  • Rainfall
  • Social vulnerability