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Malaria--Is the U.S. Next?

With global warming, large parts of southern England and Wales are at risk from malaria. Scientist say the disease is most likely to arrive in river areas and low-lying wetlands. Humans become infected when bitten by a mosquito that is carrying the parasite.

Researchers at Durham University in the U.K. used a mathematical model to predict how global warming will increase the threat of malaria in coming years. They studied vivax malaria, which can be transmitted by a species of mosquito commonly found in Britain, Anopheles atroparvus. A rise in temperature encourages the mosquito to breed and feed more rapidly and also speeds up the maturation of the malaria parasite.

Malaria was once common in many parts of England, and was a leading cause of death in many marsh communities between the 16th and 19th centuries. At the moment, mosquitoes in the U.K. are not infected with the malaria parasite. However, if global warming continues at the current rate, some of these same areas could again become breeding grounds for malaria for up to four months each year by the end of this century.

Steve Lindsay says, "Present day summer temperatures are warm enough to support the transmission of malarial parasites by indigenous mosquitoes in the warmest parts of the country for two months each year. By 2050 large parts of southern England could get malarial transmissions and the season could be increased to four months by the end of the century."

Increased foreign travel has led to a sharp increase in the number of people bringing the disease back to England. Dr. Peter Chiodini, of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London, says malaria is a problem because the early symptoms can be confused with the flu.





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