Malaria is one of the easily transmitted vector-borne diseases in the world. Any change in climate and climatic exposure leads to changes in the temperature and rainfall which make malaria one of the most sensitive health outcomes to changes in climate. With increasing changes in climate nowadays and a fluctuation in the global temperature, the chances of malaria incidence increasing due to climate changes also comes up (Dasgupta 2018). This essay discusses how climatic changes act as environmental determinants of malaria.
Malaria is an infectious disease, vector-borne, caused by the parasite-protozoan belonging to the genus- plasmodium. It is transmitted via the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito and causes intermittent fever. The mosquito itself does not get the disease, only acts as a vector and carrier of the plasmodium. It bites the infected individual, carries the plasmodium and transfers the plasmodium into a healthy individual by biting again (Bousema & Drakeley 2017). In the year 2018 alone, there were around 228 million cases of malaria with 4.05 lakh deaths. Around 70% deaths involved children under 5 years of age. Majority of the cases involved regions in sub-saharan Africa, followed by south-east Asia and eastern Mediterranean region as well. Around 19 countries from Africa were responsible for the major burden of malaria (83%) along with India (WHO-World Malaria Report 2019). The determinants of malaria include community awareness and knowledge, availability of health services, social, living and economic conditions apart from environmental and climatic factors influencing the incubation period of vector borne diseases (Dasgupta 2018).
Global climate change can best be described as the over-all impact and changes in temperature and precipitation patterns of the earth associated with changing environment. Other effects of climate change on public health include increasing fatalities and injuries due to extreme weather changes and conditions, changes in biology and transmission cycles of vectors for infectious diseases, air pollution causing respiratory disorders, changes in food production, increase in cases of allergies are some of the established effects of climate change as an environmental determinant for health. Indirectly, climate change affecting the ecosystem and the habitat of livestock, animals, plants, wildlife, agriculture, forests, marine life, coastal life, parasites and pathogens will also impact diseases, their occurrence, incidence, spread and transmission as well. Thereby, affecting public health of the population(Greenberg 2019).
Malaria is known to be sensitive to climate change in a way that the vector that spreads malaria and the plasmodium parasite that is responsible for causing the disease are both sensitive to variables of climate specifically rainfall and temperature. Temperature changes usually affect the incubation period of the vectors. Temperature affects the life-cycle of the mosquito including its growth, its rate of biting and its life-span as well. Increase in rainfall leads to stagnation of water which might act as breeding spots for the mosquitoes. The estimated global optimal temperature responsible for maximizing the mortality due to malaria in all age-groups stands at 20.6℃, calculated using the dataset from 1980 to 2010. It is also suggested that mortalityis maximized at 28.4℃ and 26.3℃, for Africa and Asia, respectively (Ngarakana-Gwasira et al., 2016).
Also, it is estimated that the mortality rate in children (ages 0-4) is most likely to increase by 20 percent in certain places due to climatic changes by the end of the 21st century (Dasgupta 2017).
Climate change and its impact is being increasingly felt across the globe. It is impacting the daily lives of people and affecting public health. Its increasing effects are visible on vector-borne diseases, especially Malaria- affecting its transmission. Changes in temperature and rainfall are causing changes in the pattern, life-cycle and growth of the vectors thereby increasing the occurrence of malaria. It therefore becomes necessary to address climate change as an important public health concern to reduce the mortality and morbidity caused by malaria.
Bousema, T., & Drakeley, C. (2017). Determinants of malaria transmission at the population level. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine, 7(12).
Dasgupta, S. (2018). Burden of climate change on malaria mortality. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 221(5), 782-791.
Greenberg, M. R. (2019). A persuasive presentation connecting the dots between climate change and public health. American Journal of Public Health.
Houghton, A., Austin, J., Beerman, A., & Horton, C. (2017). An approach to developing local climate change environmental public health indicators in a rural district. Journal of Environmental and Public Health.
Ngarakana-Gwasira, E. T., Bhunu, C. P., Masocha, M., & Mashonjowa, E. (2016). Assessing the role of climate change in malaria transmission in Africa. Malaria Research and Treatment.
World Malaria Report, 2019-WHO
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