Malaria Transmission in the African Highlands in a Changing Climate Situation: Perspective from Kenyan Highlands
- Author(s): Yan, G
- Afrane, YA
- Githeko, AK
- Editor(s): Casalegno, S
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttp://10.0.22.140/24946
Vector-borne diseases are among the diseases that have been linked with climate change (IPCC. 2001). Malaria is probably the deadliest climate sensitive vector-borne disease (Githeko et al. 2000). About 90% of the 300-500 million cases of the reported malaria cases worldwide come from Africa. In the late 80s to the 90s, malaria epidemics occurred frequently in western Kenya highlands, often taking the population by surprise. The epidemics were caused by Plasmodium falciparum and transmitted by Anopheles gambiae and Anopheles funestus. Epidemics were associated with high morbidity and mortality in all age groups, with prevalence of the disease rising from about 20% to about 60%. The case mortality in functional health facilities were estimated at about 7.5% (Githeko and Ndegwa 2001). The malaria transmission system involves a complex interaction between humans, mosquitoes, the plasmodium parasite, climate and the physical environment. Warming of the climate is expected to lead to latitudinal and altitudinal temperature increase. The temporal and spatial changes in temperature, precipitation and humidity that are expected to occur under different climate change scenarios will affect the biology and ecology of vectors and intermediate hosts and consequently the risk of disease transmission. The risk increases because, although arthropods can regulate their internal temperature by changing their behaviour, they cannot do so physiologically and are thus critically dependent on climate for their survival and development (Lindsay and Birley 1996). Temperature is inversely related to altitude, thus the high-elevation areas in Africa, or highlands, generally exhibit low ambient temperature, which restricts the development of vectors and parasites. Because malaria transmission rate is temperature-dependent, any factor that alters the temperature in the highland would reduce the duration of parasite development, larval development and increase the mosquito biting rates, and subsequently increase malaria transmission in the highlands.
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