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Climate Change Could Lead to More Cholera Outbreaks

Cholera patient
(Photo : Flickr / DFAT photo library / CC) According to researchers, the number of cholera outbreaks will increase because of climate change.

Researchers from the University of Maryland warned that more cholera outbreaks may occur in the future due to the global effects of climate change, Live Science reported.

The researchers pointed out that the constant change in weather patterns could create ideal environments for the spread of bacteria.

Led by University of Maryland researcher Rita Colwell, the team conducted the study by analyzing the 40-year history of cholera outbreaks in different countries. The researchers then used the data collected and compared it to the weather patterns in the regions affected by the epidemic.

The researchers presented their findings during the 47th American Geophysical Union conference held in San Francisco, California.

Colwell's team explained that the cholera disease develops from the Vibrio cholerae organism. This bacterium thrives in wet areas and those with poor sanitary conditions.

Based on the researcher's analysis on outbreaks and weather patterns, they discovered that the disease is more likely to spread in regions that experience both hot temperatures and a high volume of precipitation. They also noted that these two weather patterns contribute in escalating the chances of an epidemic.

Periods of heavy rainfall create more areas where the bacterium can flourish. The developed cholera bacteria then remain in bodies of water that have become stagnant due to the dry season.

However, due to flooding brought by heavy rainfall, the bacteria can spread to other areas and cause an outbreak.

Because of these conditions, researchers strongly believe that the number of cholera outbreaks in the future will increase since different parts of the world are already experiencing extreme weather changes.

As a solution, the team partnered with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to use the agency's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites. Using GRACE, they will be able to track drastic weather changes to predict if a cholera outbreak will occur.

"This is a paradigm shift in our interpretation of cholera epidemiological data," Colwell said during a press release after the conference. "For the first time, hydrological and climatological data are being incorporated in our understanding of the outbreaks."

The researchers noted that through NASA's technology, they will be able to very if an epidemic will develop two to four months in advance. This will provide local governments and institutions enough time to conduct necessary steps to prepare for an outbreak or prevent it from happening completely.  

Tags Cholera Outbreak, Climate Change, health, Environment, Science

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