How El Niño forecasts can help prevent cholera deaths in Africa. The Conversation, May 14, 2017.
Since it first emerged from the Ganges River delta 200 years ago, cholera has killed tens of millions of people around the world. It causes acute diarrhea that can kill quickly without proper treatment. Before the 1970s it was not unusual for healthy adults to die of dehydration within days of infection, despite drinking large amounts of water.
By some estimates, over a billion people worldwide live in areas where there is risk of cholera, and hundreds of thousands die every year. But when people have access to clean water, appropriate treatment or vaccine, the risk of cholera is greatly reduced. With well-trained medical staff and supplies, appropriate and timely treatment of cholera patients can ensure that almost no one dies.
In a recent study, our group sought to understand how weather changes caused by El Niño impact cholera risk in Africa, where most cholera deaths occur. El Niño events can now be forecast as much as a year in advance, so knowing this relationship may help forecast where cholera outbreaks are most likely to occur.
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