Weather forecast could predict cholera outbreaks: study

Scientists are closing in on a forecast model that may soon be able to predict future cholera outbreaks based on increases in temperature and rainfall, according to a study published Tuesday.

An analysis of several years of past data in cholera-prone parts of Zanzibar, Tanzania, showed that when temperatures rose one degree Celsius, cholera cases were likely to double within four months, said scientists at the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul, South Korea.

A small increase in rainfall (200-milliliter or 6.7 ounces per month) also forecast that a "substantial increase could be expected within two months," said the research in the June issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Cholera, a diarrhea-causing bacteria that can be lethal in vulnerable populations, often strikes without warning, and by the time symptoms arise it is often too late for vaccines to be effective.

The disease is primarily spread through fecal contamination of food and water. The bacteria can live in the environment, so rising water levels may also make it easier for the illness to spread, particularly in impoverished areas with poor sanitation.

The researchers applied the same statistical model "used to study seasonal trends for other infectious diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, to retrospectively predict the cholera case-load in the region for 2003 to 2008," said the study.

"The predicted levels based on climate conditions closely matched actual cholera cases and outbreaks recorded in surveillance reports over the same time period."

The ability to predict cholera outbreaks could save lives and cut back on cases, said lead author Rita Reyburn, a research associate at IVI.

"We are getting very close to developing a reliable forecasting system that would monitor temperatures and rainfall patterns to trigger pre-emptive measures - like mobilizing public health teams or emergency vaccination efforts - to prepare for an outbreak before it arrives."

Cholera typically strikes in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of southeast Asia. An epidemic in Haiti has killed nearly 5,000 people and experts say 800,000 will be sickened by it this year.

The study called it "particularly troubling" that the doubling of cases coincided with such a small boost in average minimum temperature - from 23 Celsius (73 Fahrenheit) to 24 Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit).

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's third assessment report, average temperatures could rise globally from between 1.4 degrees Celsius and 5.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

"Based on the results of this analysis we would expect a very high cholera caseload in Asia and Africa if the temperatures hit the higher end of that range," said Mohammad Ali, a senior scientist at IVI.

ksh/jm

 

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

    £16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

    Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

    £40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

    £20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

    Day In a Page

    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy