Guest essay by Eric Worrall
“The New Humanitarian” claims global warming has caused deadly rise in Dengue Fever cases in South America; but they admit mosquito spraying programme cutbacks might have played a role.
27 April 2020
Is global warming driving the spread of dengue across Latin America?
In 1970, the tropical disease was only a danger in nine countries. Now, it afflicts over 100.
International scientists have for years warned that climate change is likely to lead to an increase in epidemics caused by pathogens and viruses. While there’s no evidence to link the COVID-19 pandemic to global warming, major ongoing outbreaks of dengue fever in Latin America are currently adding credence to the theory.
Just as the novel coronavirus takes hold in the region, severe dengue epidemics are already raging in Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. And Honduras experienced a record-setting outbreak that finally slowed late last year.
Adding to the concern is the fact that South America is experiencing dengue in temperate mountainous regions of the Andes that have no previous history of the once-tropical disease. Scientists say global warming is one of the main drivers.
Jihan Simón Hasbun, a doctor in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula who was part of the effort to address the dengue epidemic, described a public health system in a state of near collapse after years of government neglect and corruption.
Hasbun said doctors were woefully ill-equipped to battle an epidemic. “In my town, the local government stopped fumigating for mosquitoes. They still sent the fumigation trucks out empty to make it look like they were addressing the problem, but they weren’t spraying anything. It was all just a show!”
“And now we are confronting coronavirus,” she added. “No one is prepared for this.”
The WHO and the IPCC have been warning for years that climate change is altering the global distribution of species – such as mosquitoes – that serve as vectors for infectious diseases.
Read more: https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/feature/2020/04/27/dengue-fever-latin-america-climate-change
Should South America build more wind turbines? Or should they make more effort to kill mosquitoes?
Even the Guardian once admitted that killing mosquitos might be the solution to controlling mosquito borne disease.
DDT row: Pesticide that damages the environment has saved millions of lives
Sarah Boseley, Health Correspondent
Mon 30 Aug 1999 10.56 AEST
Malaria, a scourge of much of the developing world, kills some 2.7m people every year, most of them children under five and pregnant women, while up to 500m become ill, cannot work and need care.
A few decades ago, world health specialists talked of eradicating malaria. Now they talk only of trying to regain control. Malaria is endemic in more than half the world’s countries. In the time it takes to name the disease, 10 children will contract it and begin fighting for their lives. One child in four who dies in Africa has succumbed to malaria.
DDT has a bad name. It is a pesticide that damages the environment and has been widely used in agriculture. Since Rachel Carson exposed its depredations in her book Silent Spring in 1962, environmentalists have campaigned to curb its use. In the west they have been successful. Advertisement
But in the developing world it has saved millions of lives. Sprayed inside houses, it kills or more often repels the mosquitoes whose bite transmits malaria, and it is cheap. Specialists argue that it does not migrate out of doors, and if we lose it through a global ban in 2007 millions who could have been protected will die.
Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/aug/30/sarahboseley
Unusually warm wet weather undoubtably helps mosquitoes, but mosquito borne diseases don’t need global warming to thrive.
In the the Little Ice Age, one of the deadliest threats to public health in Northern Europe was Malaria.
Endemic malaria: an ‘indoor’ disease in northern Europe. Historical data analysed
Lena Huldén, Larry Huldén & Kari Heliövaara
Malaria Journal volume 4, Article number: 19 (2005) Cite this article
Endemic northern malaria reached 68°N latitude in Europe during the 19th century, where the summer mean temperature only irregularly exceeded 16°C, the lower limit needed for sporogony of Plasmodium vivax. Because of the available historical material and little use of quinine, Finland was suitable for an analysis of endemic malaria and temperature.
Read more: https://malariajournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2875-4-19
South America might choose to fight Dengue epidemics by focussing more resources on combatting global warming, but I can’t help thinking that ensuring mosquito spraying programmes are in order might help. And perhaps a little DDT spraying, at least in the worst afflicted regions.
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