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Disease Outbreaks in African Countries: Connection with Climate Change

Disease Outbreaks in African Countries

Several African Countries have grappled with severe epidemics and disease outbreaks, often exacerbated by natural disasters like floods and cyclones, highlighting a strong link between climate change and public health crises.

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Incidences of Disease Outbreaks in African Countries:

  • Malawi: In 2022, Malawi faced three aggressive cyclones, which was followed by the worst cholera outbreak ever recorded. Cholera has swiftly spread across all 29 districts of the country, infecting over 36,940 individuals and resulting in more than 1,200 deaths as of February 9, 2023.
  • Nigeria: After experiencing widespread flooding in 2022, Nigeria encountered its highest-ever caseload of cholera.
  • Kenya: Witnessing the most severe drought in four decades, Kenya grappled with a cholera outbreak in its wake.

Understanding Cholera:

Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection caused by consuming food or water contaminated with the Vibrio cholerae bacterium. It manifests as severe, acute, watery diarrhea, impacting both children and adults. If left untreated, cholera can lead to death within hours. While most infected individuals exhibit either mild symptoms or none at all, effective treatment can be provided through oral rehydration solutions.

Climate Change’s Role in Disease Outbreaks in African Countries:

  • Climate change exacerbates the risk of cholera due to increased rainfall and warmer temperatures, fostering the growth and dissemination of pathogens like Vibrio cholerae.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a comprehensive assessment in 2022, underlining the rising trend of climate-related health emergencies in Africa.
  • In the second week of February 2023, African countries reported a staggering 125 disease outbreaks. This marked an increase of over 2.8 times the outbreaks reported during the same period in 2018.
  • In East African highlands, rising temperatures have allowed malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquitoes to thrive at higher altitudes, expanding the geographic range of malaria transmission.
  • There has been a surge in measles cases, a preventable yet potentially deadly disease. The virulence and transmission of the measles virus are significantly influence by factors like temperature and relative humidity.
  • Climatic conditions contribute to the risk of zoonotic pathogens, such as the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which can transmit from animals or birds to humans, triggering severe disease outbreaks. The Ebola outbreak serves as a relevant example.

Way Ahead:

  • African countries, due to their widespread poverty and lower immunity, are particularly vulnerable to disease outbreaks exacerbated by climate change. It is imperative to support these nations in enhancing healthcare infrastructure and sanitation.
  • Robust healthcare systems and preventive healthcare measures must be establish with the assistance of the international community.
  • Nations should take immediate, concrete actions to combat climate change. Addressing the root causes of climate change is pivotal to mitigating its impact on public health. Thus reducing the frequency and intensity of disease outbreaks.

Read Also: Cholera disease-Pre Facts

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