Global warming could reduce dengue risk

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CLIMATE CHANGE MAY REDUCE DENGUE Australian researchers have found that global warming might actually reduce the habitat for mosquitoes carrying the dreaded dengue fever virus. PHOTO PHILIPPINE INFORMATION AGENCY

CLIMATE CHANGE MAY REDUCE DENGUE Australian researchers have found that global warming might actually reduce the habitat for mosquitoes carrying the dreaded dengue fever virus. PHOTO PHILIPPINE INFORMATION AGENCY

THE risk of dengue fever could be re-duced in a warmer climate in the future, contrary to current assumptions, re-searchers in Australia found in a new study.

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The study, entitled “Projections of Increased and Decreased Dengue Incidence Under Climate Change,” was published in the journal Epidemiology and Infection and led by Associate Professor David Harley from the Australian National University.

Focusing on the wet tropical areas of northeast Australia, the study found that despite previous assumptions that climate change would cause the potentially lethal mosquito-borne virus to spread more easily, the risk of dengue might decrease under “a high-emissions scenario,” in which average temperatures increase by 2 to 3 degrees centigrade by 2050, due to mosquito breeding sites becoming drier and less favorable to their survival.

“There is significant concern in countries on the margin of the tropical areas where dengue is mainly found, that with global warming dengue and other mosquito-borne viruses such as Zika will encroach and become common,” Harley said. “While climate change generally poses a major threat to humanity, it also may reduce the incidence of dengue in some areas.”

Dengue fever is a serious concern in the Philippines, with tens of thousands of cases resulting in a number of deaths each year. This year, as of August 6 this year, the latest date for which data is available, the Department of Health (DOH) reported that there have been 84,085 cases of dengue fever in the country. That is a 16-percent increase over the rate of infection in 2015, with 25,000 new cases being reported last month (July) alone. So far, 372 deaths have been attributed to the disease this year.

The researchers were careful to point out, however, that climate warming is still generally considered bad news for people’s health, and that impacts of global warming might differ from place to place.

“Generally, health and other impacts of climate warming will be negative in Australia and elsewhere in the world,” Harley said. “While we could see some reduction in dengue in far north Queensland in a future warmer climate, the disease is widespread elsewhere in the world where outcomes would be different.”

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