Tag Archives: Ciguatera poisoning

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

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.

Read more about the potential health effects of climate change