For the record, `climate change’ is now a disease.
A patient in Canada’s British Columbia province has been diagnosed with “climate change” after he complained of breathing trouble.
This is possibly the first case wherein a patient has been diagnosed with climate change.
The patient was struggling to breathe after the recent wildfires in Kootenays worsened her asthma, reported Canada’s Times Colonist newspaper.
The Kootenays region in the British Columbia province has seen over 1,600 wildfires this fiscal year, according to the BC Wildfire Service website.
Dr. Kyle Merritt, who heads the Kootenay Lake Hospital’s emergency room (ER) department, had seen numerous cases where the record heatwave exacerbated existing health issues like diabetes, heart failure, and so on.
However, linking mortality or severe illness to heatwaves or air pollution is a struggle. Faced with treating the surging cases of heat illness that the physician had seen only in medical school, Dr. Merritt reached out to other medical professionals in neighboring provinces of Prince George, Kamloops, Vancouver, and Victoria, says the report.
Since June, hundreds of people have died in a heatwave that broke Canadian heat records — Lytton in British Columbia recorded an all-time high of 49.6 degree Celsius on June 29.
When asked why he chose to make the unusual diagnosis, the report quotes Dr. Merritt as saying: “If we’re not looking at the underlying cause, and we’re just treating the symptoms, we’re just gonna keep falling further and further behind.”
“It’s me trying to just … process what I’m seeing. We’re in the emergency department, we look after everybody, from the most privileged to the most vulnerable, from cradle to grave, and we see everybody. And it’s hard to see people, especially the most vulnerable people in our society, being affected. It’s frustrating,” he says.
Dr. Merritt, who went on to put together a collective named Doctors and Nurses for Planetary Health, hopes that his action will help other physicians to establish a more straightforward link between their patients’ health and climate change.
The father of three says that the three weeks of summer, where the Covid-19 pandemic, the heatwave, wildfires, and air pollution converged, was especially trying.
“What do you do with your children? You know, I have three kids, and they’re inside, it’s summertime, we’ve just got through COVID. And they want to go out and jump on the trampoline. So I have to try and figure out: Is that safe?” says Dr. Merritt.
The link between public health and climate crisis has been a hot topic at the ongoing COP26 summit in Glasgow. The climate conference being hosted by the United Kingdom has seen world leaders and technological giants come together to strengthen a global response to the threat of climate change. However, many of the deals and announcements made have been criticized by activists as not aggressive enough to make a meaningful difference.