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Drought and Health

Drought can affect human health in many ways. Some drought-related health effects are experienced in the short-term and can be directly observed and measured. However, long term drought conditions can result in indirect health implications that are not always easy to anticipate or monitor. The following are some of the health implications of drought:

  • Sources of water affected by drought may have higher concentrations of pollutants, which can lead to contaminated fish, harmful blue-green algal blooms, and increased levels of bacteria.
  • Water bodies can become stagnant, providing breeding grounds for mosquitos. This can lead to increased rates of mosquito-related illness, such as West Nile Virus.
  • Drought can cause crop failure and can lead to food shortages.
  • Dry, dusty conditions can lead to wildfires and dust storms, which can increase the amount of particulate matter in the air. This can worsen chronic lung problems, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In addition, dust storms can spread bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can cause illness.
  • Stress from economic or job losses may lead to increased anxiety and depression.

The types of health effects depend upon drought severity, geographical location, existing health and sanitation infrastructure, and available resources to alleviate drought-related health impacts. For more information, visit CDC’s Drought and Health website.