Scientists in Peru are using their knowledge of the changing climate to better understand its link to the growing cases of diseases spread through rodents and mosquitoes, as reported by The Washington Post, which noted “a perfect storm of illness is brewing.”
The relationship between climate and public health has been studied for ages. As our climate changes, so do those links.
In Peru, the number of cases of dengue, malaria, and leptospirosis hit an all-time high in 2023, according to the Post. In the capital city of Lima alone, cases of dengue rose to 30,000 in 2023, compared to fewer than 1,000 in 2022, according to Peru’s Ministry of Health.
In the American West, cases of the fungus known as valley fever have spiked because of the extreme drought the region has experienced for years. Bangladesh is another example of a country with an uptick in dengue cases; increased rainfall and temperatures were included in this World Health Organization report as contributing factors because wetter and warmer conditions offer favorable environments for disease-carrying mosquitoes to breed.
Gabriel Carrasco, an epidemiologist based in Peru, is looking to measure and monitor all the factors that cause dengue, malaria, and leptospirosis.
“As climate change makes Peru more welcoming to mosquitoes, it’s also pushing humans into the kind of communities where they’re more likely to get infected: informal settlements with no running water or regular trash service,” Carrasco told the Post.
Carrasco and his team are using technology to track the factors causing outbreaks. According to the Post, they use drones and sensors in and around these settlements to “zoom in on those environmental clues. … Along with scanning from potential mosquito breeding sites, [the drones] can identify homes that are prone to flooding — and whose dwellers are at greater risk of stepping into puddles contaminated by rat urine.”
With data collected from these drones as well as from local health care workers, Carrasco is hoping “to get ahead of events that trigger disease, so when we see them, we can predict the chances of an outbreak in the following weeks or months.”
Though some experts are skeptical of Carrasco’s studies and want to see more “non-weather related pieces of the malady puzzle” included, there is no question that weather and climate changes play a major role in the increase of animal-borne disease outbreaks.
It is the hard work of scientists such as Carrasco around the world that will help to better monitor, track, and forecast disease outbreaks in order to curb cases.
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