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    Dr. Robert Shope

    (Professor at University of Texas, Director of the Yale Arbovirus Research Unit for 24 years)

    Robert Shope has devoted his career to the study of viruses carried by mosquitoes, ticks, and other biting insects. These viruses can cause life-threatening diseases in humans such as malaria, dengue and yellow fevers, and encephalitis. Since receiving hi s medical degree in 1954 from Cornell University, he has spent many years in Malaysia, Brazil, and other tropical sites studying these insect-borne diseases. He was a Professor of Epidemiology at Yale University's School of Medicine from 1975 to 1995, an d served as the Director of the Yale Arbovirus Research Unit. During that period he was awarded many honors, including the Walter Reed Award from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. He is presently a Professor in the Departments of Path ology and Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

    Thank you, Mr. President. Health and the environment are closely linked. If there is a 6 F warming, the heat alone in North American cities, such as Washington, D.C., will result in an excess of deaths, especially in elderly people who do not adapt well to severe warmth. We had an example in July of 1995 in Chicago, Illinois. There the temperature exceeded 90 F night and day for a prolonged period, and there were 465 deaths recorded in Chicago related to the heat.

    My own personal experience is with diseases transmitted by ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects. Let me talk about dengue virus. This causes a disease in people which typically gives them high fever, headache, muscle aches and pains, and sometimes a rash. There is a more severe form of dengue, dengue-hemorrhagic fever, in which the case mortality rate is about 10 percent. This virus is transmitted by a mosquito that lives in and around homes in warm climates. The mosquito is killed by a hard freeze ; therefore, it's northern limit is about Memphis, Tennessee, at the present time. In the last decade, we've seen a steady increase in the numbers of cases of dengue in tropical America, including Mexico. This disease is now literally on our southern bord er. I cannot tell you whether dengue epidemics will occur in the United States, but with climate change and warming, the mosquito will thrive further north.

    These same factors apply to the vector of malaria, also a mosquito. Malaria is a disease that, worldwide, kills approximately 2 million people each year. It's a tropical disease, but recently has occurred in small outbreaks in the United States, in New Je rsey, New York, and Texas, and with warming we can expect these outbreaks to continue and to enlarge.

    The factors that I've talked about argue for controlling the environment while we still have time, and I will say that the best insurance is preparedness. There are many other diseases directly affected by rainfall and warming - - St. Louis encephalitis, t he tick-borne Lyme disease, and the newly recognized rodent-associated Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which broke out in 1993 in the southwestern part of the United States. Each nation in the world has its own set of diseases, some of which affect America ns abroad or can be transported and introduced into the United States. Therefore, the problem of climate change and health is of common interest among nations as are the solutions. Thank you.


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