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Climate change is melting permafrost that has been frozen for thousands of years, and releasing ancient viruses and bacteria. (symbolic picture)
Humans and bacteria and viruses have always lived side by side in history. From the bubonic plague to smallpox, we have been facing them. But what if suddenly we encounter such deadly bacteria and viruses that have been buried under the earth for thousands of years. Climate change is melting permafrost that has been frozen for thousands of years, and releasing ancient viruses and bacteria. Most of these are not expected to be active. But some can become active and take dangerous forms.
In August 2016, a 12-year-old boy died of anthrax in the Yamal Peninsula of the Siberian tundra. 20 others were infected. It started 75 years before this incident. Then after the death of a deer from anthrax, its carcass was buried in mud and snow. In the scorching heat of 2016, this layer melted and the body came out.
Its bacterial anthrax reached the child’s body through water and soil, and then through food. However, anthrax was first identified in the 12th–13th centuries. This is not the case alone, as global warming increases the layer of permafrost will melt more. Under normal conditions the layer of permafrost melts by 50 cm every summer. But now global warming is causing the melting of old permafrost layers.
Temperatures in the Arctic Circle are rising almost three times faster than in the rest of the world. Due to the rapid melting of permafrost, the accumulated carbon dioxide and methane in it are also dissolving in the atmosphere. The summer of 2020 saw the highest temperature ever recorded in Siberia. In the northern city of Verkhoyansk, the temperature had reached 38 degrees Celsius.
Here a few years ago scientists in France and Russia revived a virus extracted from 30,000-year-old Siberian permafrost. This virus could infect amoeba, not humans, but researchers Dr. Ebergel and Dr. Klaveri of the Russian Academy of Sciences say that it is also possible that some similar viruses can infect humans. In a 2005 study, NASA scientists successfully revived a 32,000-year-old bacterium in a frozen pond in Alaska.
Drilling in difficult areas can also cause disease crisis
Sea ice is melting in the Arctic. The northern coast of Siberia is now more easily accessible by sea. Industrial possibilities are being explored at these places. It is not that viruses and bacteria will come out only by melting the layer of permafrost. Continuous drilling is being done in such inaccessible areas for gold and minerals mining and oil and natural gas. If the virus is still there in those layers of the earth, they can cause disaster.