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Climate Crisis Is Increasing Malaria, Meningitis, Dengue: UN

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By A Correspondent

There are spikes in meningitis when dust storms hit and outbreaks of dengue fever when hard rains come. This is shown in "Atlas of Health and Climate" by the World Health Organization and World Meteorological Organization. The atlas has mapped the intersection of health and climate in an age of global warming [1].

Officials said on October 29, 2012 that their "Atlas of Health and Climate" is meant to be a tool for leaders to use to get early warning of disease outbreaks.

Since 2005, for example, the atlas shows that the weekly number of cases of meningitis, which is spread by bacteria and germs, has risen when the dry season hits sub-Saharan Africa, where it has killed an estimated 25,000 people over the past 10 years. And since at least 1998, there has been a strong seasonal pattern of dengue fever, transmitted by mosquitoes, during periods of heavy rainfall in tropical and subtropical areas, killing about 15,000 people a year.

The joint project of the WHO and WMO says the likelihood of increasingly frequent heat waves hitting the planet is four to 10 times as often by 2050 — and they will probably most affect the fast-growing vulnerable populations of aging and urban people particularly in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

"Many diseases including malaria, dengue, meningitis — just a few examples — these are what we call climate-sensitive diseases, because such climate dimensions for rainfall, humidity and temperature would influence the epidemics, the outbreaks, either directly influencing the parasites or the mosquitoes that carry them," said Dr. Margaret Chan, the director-general of the UN health agency.

Chan said the data could be used to better manage animals' habitat and ecosystems, which would also make a big difference to people's health because 80 percent of the infectious diseases currently found in humans have come from animals.

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said the atlas is meant to translate and map information buried in the agencies' technical documents "into something which can be used by the decision-makers directly."

RTT News reported [2]:

As the world's climate continues to change, hazards to human health are increasing. The Atlas of Health and Climate illustrates some of the most pressing current and emerging challenges.

Droughts, floods and cyclones affect the health of millions of people each year. Climate variability and extreme conditions such as floods can also trigger epidemics of diseases like diarrhea, malaria, dengue and meningitis, which cause death and suffering for many millions more. The Atlas gives practical examples of how the use of weather and climate information can protect public health.

The atlas provides sound scientific information on the connections between weather and climate and major health challenges. These range from diseases of poverty to emergencies arising from extreme weather events and disease outbreaks.

Until now, climate services have been an underutilized resource for public health.

In some locations the incidence of infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue, meningitis and cholera can vary by factors of more than 100 between seasons, and significantly between years, depending on weather and climate conditions. Stronger climate services in endemic countries can help predict the onset, intensity and duration of epidemics.

Case studies illustrate how collaboration between meteorological, emergency and health services is already saving lives. For example, the death toll from cyclones of similar intensity in Bangladesh reduced from around 500,000 in 1970, to 140,000 in 1991, to 3,000 in 2007 - largely thanks to improved early warning systems and preparedness.

Reference Notes:

[1] Philippine Star (philstar.com), “New UN "atlas" links climate change, health”, Oct. 30, 2012, http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=865038&publicationSubCategoryId=200

[2] “Atlas Of Health And Climate: Climate Change Profoundly Impacts Health Hazards”, 10/29/2012, http://www.rttnews.com/1992784/atlas-of-health-and-climate-climate-change-profoundly-impacts-health-hazards.aspx

[Source: Countercurrents.org]

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