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Malaria spreads to higher altitudes due to global warming

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/10/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Millions of additional cases could spread within the next few years

Malaria, the deadly mosquito-borne virus that brings debilitating chills and fever in many parts of Southeast Asia and Africa may soon seek higher altitudes on account of global warming, experts warn. New research has found that people living in the highlands of Africa and South America are at an increased risk of catching malaria during hotter years.

There were about 207 million cases of malaria in 2012 and an estimated 627,000 deaths, with most deaths occurring among children living in Africa, according to the latest estimates from the World Health Organization.

There were about 207 million cases of malaria in 2012 and an estimated 627,000 deaths, with most deaths occurring among children living in Africa, according to the latest estimates from the World Health Organization.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
3/10/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Health

Keywords: Malaria, mosquitoes, Ethiopia, warmer temperatures


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Researchers believe that increasing temperatures could result in millions of additional cases in some areas. "The impact in terms of increasing the risk of exposure to disease is very large," Professor Mercedes Pascual, from the University of Michigan says.

Higher altitudes have traditionally provided a haven from this devastating disease. Warmer temperatures remove this roadblock. Both the malaria parasite and the malaria-bearing mosquito struggle to cope with colder air.

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"The risk of the disease decreases with altitude and this is why historically people have settled in these higher regions," Pascual says. The disease is now entering new regions that had previously been malaria-free.

Scientists looked at densely populated areas in the highlands of Colombia and Ethiopia, where there are detailed records of both temperature and malaria cases from the 1990s to 2005. In the warmer years, malaria shifted higher into the mountains, while in cooler years it was limited to lower elevations.

"This expansion could in a sense account for a substantial part of the increase of cases we have already observed in these areas," Pascual says.

Rising temperatures could cause a further spread of the deadly condition. In Ethiopia, where nearly half of the population lives at an altitude of at least 5,250 feet, scientists believe there could be many more cases.

"We have estimated that, based on the distribution of malaria with altitude, a 1C rise in temperature could lead to an additional three million cases in under-15-year-olds per year," Pascual says.

Researchers think that because people living in areas that have never been exposed to malaria are particularly vulnerable to the disease, attempts to stop the spread should be focused on areas at the edge of the spread. Malaria is easier to control here than at lower altitudes where it has already established.

There were about 207 million cases of malaria in 2012 and an estimated 627,000 deaths, with most deaths occurring among children living in Africa, according to the latest estimates from the World Health Organization. 

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