Australia is about to see a spike in gastro cases -- here's why

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  • Drought in Australia has been linked to spike in gastro cases.
  • An ANU study found that reported cases of the gastro bug rose significantly during the drought that ended in 2009.
  • The study highlights the risks that climate change, drought and environmental change, pose to people’s health.

The drought affecting parts of Australia could lead to a spike in the number cases of the gastroenteritis, an illness that can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, according to a study by ANU scientists.

The study found that reported cases of the gastro bug, cryptosporidiosis, rose significantly in parts of Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory along the Murray Darling Basin during the Big Drought that ended in 2009.

The risk of cryptosporidiosis dropped by 84% in the ACT and by 57% in Queensland once the drought ended.

“Cryptosporidiosis is one of the most common water-related parasitic diseases in the world, and Australia reports the second highest rate of the illness in humans among many developed countries,” says lead researcher Dr Aparna Lal from the ANU Research School of Population Health.

“Gastro is a really preventable problem, so we shouldn’t be having these very high rates of cryptosporidiosis in Australia.”

Droughts, reduced river volume and flow potentially increases the concentration of pathogens such as those that cause gastro.

“As these gastro bugs can also be spread from livestock, land-use change may also contribute to this pattern, due in part to access around waterways,” Lal says.

“This study highlights the very real risks that climate change, drought and environmental change, more broadly, pose to people’s health.

“Over the coming century, we can expect extended dry periods across the globe — we are already seeing another big drought underway in New South Wales. It’s a big problem and we need policymakers in climate change, water and health to work together to address it.”

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