A study published in the U.S. journal Science stated that malaria could make a comeback in tropical highland areas in Asia, Africa and both central and southern America as the climate warms and mosquitos move to higher altitudes. The deadly disease killed approximately 620,000 people in 2012, but sickened over 300 million. Experts announce that the climate change will only accentuate the rapidity with which it spreads. Researchers have debated for over 20 years the repercussions global warming could have on the worldwide incidence of malaria. Although 3.3 million deaths have been avoided, thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s involvement, the situation could worsen in the future.
Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Michigan analyzed the regional records in Colombia and Ethiopia, both tropical countries that have highland territory, and looked at Colombia’s cases of the deadly disease between 1990 and 2005 and Ethiopia’s from 1993 to 2005. The study revealed that, as the climate warms, malaria is likely to make a comeback. The explanation backing up the alarming news can be found in the mosquitos’ behavior once global warming reaches new heights.
Menno Bouma, an honorary clinical lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, found out that the disease is more present at higher elevations when the weather is warmer than when it is cooler, which, in turn, suggests that, with global warming, malaria will “escalate” in the mountains and spread to high-altitude locations. Therefore, people previously unaffected by the disease do no have the necessary immune systems to fight it. Countries that could be affected are Ecuador, Peru, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Madagascar, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Papua New Guinea.
Climate Changes Bring Other Illnesses
A recent study shows that, as the climate warms, malaria is likely to make a comeback, but this deadly disease, which can kill by interrupting the blood supply to vital organs, is not the only disease to affect people worldwide.
The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that other illnesses, such as malnutrition, dengue and diarrheal diseases, are expected to get worse as the climate warms. The U.N. agency added that dengue, also a mosquito-borne illness, had “epidemic potential,” because of the fact that it started to spread at an alarming rate. While malaria’s symptoms include vomiting, headache and fever, dengue causes joint pains, itches, headaches and high fever, but both can lead to death.
Mercedes Pascual, a disease ecologist at the University of Michigan, is certain that the upcoming threat stems from climate effects and emphasizes that efforts to prevent a malaria outbreak should be focused especially in Africa. For example, an increase of only one degree Celsius in Ethiopia could lead to an additional three million cases of children touched by this deadly disease.
Control methods are currently strengthened in order to avoid more deaths from malaria. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made this disease its top priority. Microsoft’s founder supports research and development for better treatments, mosquito-control measures, diagnostics and vaccines, and has offered about $2 billion in grants to fight the deadly illness. However, the Global Malaria Action estimated that another $5 billion in funding per year is needed in order to reach and maintain global coverage. Until notable progress is achieved, research shows that malaria is making a comeback as the climate warms.
By Gabriela Motroc