JAN 04, 2020 1:12 PM PST

La Niña is associated with higher incidence of life-threatening diarrhea

Findings published recently in the journal Nature Communications suggest that La Niña climate conditions are linked to an increase in the incidence of life-threatening diarrhea in young children. The study was carried out in Botswana by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health scientists.

The study focused on the Chobe region in northeastern Botswana to determine the associations between El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO ) climate conditions and cases of diarrhea in children under five years old. Briefly, ENSO refers to the ocean-atmosphere system in the Pacific Ocean that oscillates between two extremes: El Niño (warmer ocean temperatures) and La Niña (cooler ocean temperatures). These oscillations typically occur in 3-to-7-year cycles. Want to learn more about ENSO? Watch the video below!

The study showed La Niña to be associated with cooler temperatures, increased rainfall, and higher flooding during the rainy season. These conditions were subsequently demonstrated to be associated with a roughly 30% rise in the incidence of under-5 diarrhea in the early rainy season. This finding causes alarm due to the significant threat that waterborne illnesses pose in the region, where diarrhea is the second leading cause of death in children younger than five years of age.

"In Southern Africa, precipitation is projected to decrease," contemplates co-author Jeffrey Shaman, PhD, who is a professor of environmental health sciences at the Columbia Mailman School. "This change, in a hydrologically dynamic region where both wildlife and humans exploit the same surface water resources, may amplify the public health threat of waterborne illness. For this reason, there is an urgent need to develop the water sector in ways that can withstand the extremes of climate change."

Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death in children younger than five years of age. Photo: Pixabay

This knowledge is crucial for public health management and the team of researchers hope that their findings will act as a foundational early-warning system that helps public health officials prepare for periods of increased diarrhea cases as long as seven months ahead of time.

"These findings demonstrate the potential use of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation as a long-lead prediction tool for childhood diarrhea in southern Africa," says first author Alexandra K. Heaney, who is currently a postdoc at University of California, Berkeley. "Advanced stockpiling of medical supplies, preparation of hospital beds, and organization of healthcare workers could dramatically improve the ability of health facilities to manage high diarrheal disease incidence."

Sources: Nature Communications, Science Daily

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 06, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Ancient Mars volcanism created rare mineral
AUG 06, 2022
Ancient Mars volcanism created rare mineral
In a collaborative study slated to be published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters this September, planetary scienti ...
AUG 20, 2022
Technology
Biofilm can Convert Energy from Evaporation into Electricity
AUG 20, 2022
Biofilm can Convert Energy from Evaporation into Electricity
In a recent study published in Nature Communications, a team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) A ...
AUG 13, 2022
Plants & Animals
Phosphorus Deficiencies Limit Plant Growth in the Amazon
AUG 13, 2022
Phosphorus Deficiencies Limit Plant Growth in the Amazon
One key nutrient plants need to thrive and survive is CO2, which is why plants have been a vital part of maintaining pla ...
AUG 22, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Modern Heat Waves Feel Worse Than Heat Index Suggests
AUG 22, 2022
Modern Heat Waves Feel Worse Than Heat Index Suggests
In a recent study published in Environmental Research Letters, a pair of researchers at the University of California at ...
AUG 26, 2022
Health & Medicine
A Viral History- Cold Sores Have Been Around for How Long?
AUG 26, 2022
A Viral History- Cold Sores Have Been Around for How Long?
The herpes simplex virus, or HSV1, is one of the most pervasive viruses among humans. A new study suggests the viru ...
SEP 16, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
Grad Student Highlights: Shannon Barry (Florida Institute of Technology)
SEP 16, 2022
Grad Student Highlights: Shannon Barry (Florida Institute of Technology)
This interview series is focused on the graduate student experience across all STEM fields that allows them to get their ...
Loading Comments...