Tag Archives: health

Local IKiribati women. Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

WHO links climate change and disease increase

Local IKiribati women. Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

Local IKiribati women. Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

The World Health Organisation (WHO) confirms there is a clear correlation between climate change and increases in diseases in the Pacific. For the Pacific, WHO identified malaria, dengue fever, diarrhea, typhoid and leptospirosis are among the important climate-sensitive diseases, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) reports.

Dr Rokho Kim, WHO’s Environmental Health Specialist based in Fiji said evidence suggests that certain weather conditions are related to an increase in certain diseases.

“We have found that after a heavy drought in a country, there is an increase in cases of diarrhea. In a situation like that, we advice the Ministry of Health to prepare for possible increases in diarrhea cases. It is important to strengthen notifiable diseases surveillance programme which includes training of doctors to report to the government and respond quickly and timely to the situation.

“This early warning system is very effective. We are working with governments to establish reliable good surveillance programme and well trained doctors to diagnose climate-sensitive diseases at the early stage.

WHO estimates that 150,000 people die from climate related diseases every year.

Read the full story on Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme

Read more about the potential health effects of climate change
Ciguatera poisoning
Diarrhoeal disease
Dengue fever

Local IKiribati children perform the Te Buke dance. They face an uncertain future as their islands capacity to support the population diminishes. Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

Human health in a warmer future

What effect will climate change have on health in the Pacific? ABC News Australia environment journalist Sarah Clarke is exploring this question in a five-part series for the ABC…

With climate change forecasts showing the Pacific will face hotter days and more extreme weather in the future, climate scientists and medical authorities say the implications could be serious for human health.

The (Australian) Federal Government’s Climate Commission is predicting a warmer Pacific will produce more heart attacks, strokes, exhaustion and more heat-related deaths.

Pacific countries are already copping the brunt of climate change, with water and food problems causing displacement.

The report also says there is the potential for a greater spread of disease transmitting mosquitoes as rainfall patterns change.

“It’s not only mosquitoes that will thrive in warmer and wetter conditions but it will also be influenced by their natural host populations before they spill over into humans,” he said.

Read the full story at abc.net.au/news


Fisherman clean their catch for the day in South Tarawa, Kiribati. Photo: Jolee Wakefield/KAPIII

Ciguatoxins ‘highest in the Pacific’

Kiribati has one of the highest rates of ciguatera poisoning in the Pacific (Lewis and Ruff 1993). The disease is contracted by consuming reef fish that have been contaminated by ciguatoxins.

A recent study found a statistically significant relation between sea surface temperatures and the reported incidence of ciguatera fish poisoning in Kiribati (Hales and others 1999). This relation was used to model the projected increases in ciguatera poisoning. The model shows that a rise in temperatures is expected to increase the incidence of ciguatera poisoning from 35–70 per thousand people in 1990 to about 160–430 per thousand by 2050.

These results should be interpreted cautiously, as the model is based on many uncertainties and limited data. The overall impact of climate change on ciguatera should perhaps be measured not in terms of incidence rates but in terms of how people respond to the increased risk (Ruff and Lewis 1997). This may include changes in diets, decreased protein intake, increased household expenditures to obtain substitute proteins, and loss of revenue from reef fisheries. In addition, reef disturbance has been linked to ciguatera outbreaks (Ruff, 1989; Lewis 1992), suggesting that improved management of coastal areas would be an important adaptation strategy.

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A former fresh water lagoon that is now inundated with sea water. Photo: Justin McManus, The Age

Risk of Dengue Fever to increase

Climate change exacerbates public health problems in Tarawa. The incidence of ciguatera poisoning, diarrhoeal disease, malnutrition, and vectorborne diseases, such as dengue fever, rise as a result of increased temperatures and changes in rainfall.

There have been several known outbreaks of Dengue Fever in Kiribati since the 1970s. South Tarawa is at a relatively high risk of dengue fever epidemics due to a combination of crowded urban areas, ideal climate conditions for the vector (average temperatures of 31 degrees Celsius and rainfall of 500 millimetres a month), the presence of an international airport, and the proliferation of discarded empty bottles and used tires.

A simple model suggests that the risk of dengue fever will increase in the future as a result of climate change, with the epidemic potential – an index measuring the efficiency of disease transmission – expected to increase 22─33 percent by 2050. Most of South Tarawa’s population would be exposed in the event of an epidemic. However, while future epidemics could expand faster, the number of cases would probably not increase from current levels. The increased prevalence of all dengue virus serotypes worldwide could also lead to a higher incidence of severe forms of dengue fever – in particular dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome, which can be fatal.

Read more about the potential health effects of climate change