Alaska August 16, 2017
There’s A Hidden Threat Emerging From The Ice In Alaska
Throughout history, diseases roamed the planet that are that were thought to be gone for good in the modern era. However, with the increasing temperatures of the planet and the subsequent melting of the Arctic, dangers that have been asleep are waking up. Diseases hidden in the dark, frozen of arctic ice have been popping up around the globe. This new threat of infection exposed by thawing ice is being faced right here in Alaska.
Above the Arctic Circle, much of the ground stays frozen year-round. In the summer when the surface warms up, small plants and shrubs can grow, but their roots can't get down into the frozen ground, so plant life stays small.
The layer below the surface that never thaws is called "permafrost". This layer keeps the arctic ground in a frozen state and can preserve artifacts and bodies for a very long time.
Usually, the top 2 feet of permafrost thaws every summer. But with global warming gradually increasing temperatures, older permafrost layers are being exposed.
In a remote corner of Siberia called the Yamal Peninsula, Anthrax (bacillus anthracis) appeared in 2016 and killed a 12-year-old boy. At least twenty additional people were hospitalized after being infected.
A reindeer infected with anthrax died over 75 years ago and its frozen carcass became trapped under the permafrost, experts theorize. When the ground thawed and the corpse was exposed in last summer's heat, the infection spread.
The infected caribou carcass released infectious anthrax into the water, soil, and food supply. Caribou grazing in the area were infected and that led to the outbreak in humans.
Anthrax can be spread four ways: through the skin, by inhalation, through the intestine, and by injection. It spreads very easily once introduced to a population.
Temperatures within the Arctic Circle are rising at a rate about three times faster than in the rest of the world.
The permafrost is dark, cold and a great preserver of microbes and viruses. As the Arctic melts, more infectious diseases may surface including plagues that have had serious worldwide impacts: Spanish flu, smallpox and the bubonic plague.
In 2005, NASA Scientists brought a virus back to life that had laid dormant since the since the Pleistocene period under the ice in Alaska.
With this and other threats found to be viable after being found in arctic and antarctic ice, there is a very real possibility that serious infectious diseases will be brought back to life by the warming of the planet.
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Diseases in the Ice. Tell us about your permafrost experiences in the comments.