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
  • 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
JUL 20, 2021
Plants & Animals
Feral Pigs Are Releasing More Carbon Than One Million Cars
JUL 20, 2021
Feral Pigs Are Releasing More Carbon Than One Million Cars
Feral pigs are considered to be a destructive, menacing invasive species in several parts of the world including the sou ...
JUL 21, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Human Contact Increases Antibiotic Resistance Carried by Galapagos Tortoises
JUL 21, 2021
Human Contact Increases Antibiotic Resistance Carried by Galapagos Tortoises
Even Giant Galapagos Tortoises, (seen here migrating in a photo by Juan Manuel García) are not safe from the world's ant ...
AUG 05, 2021
Technology
Top Ways to Make the Most out of Your Ethernet
AUG 05, 2021
Top Ways to Make the Most out of Your Ethernet
Today, the Ethernet connection has emerged as one of the most popular ways to make the most out of an internet connectio ...
AUG 31, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
A Method to Detect Genetically Modified Animals in the Environment
AUG 31, 2021
A Method to Detect Genetically Modified Animals in the Environment
Genetically modified mice, fruit flies, and zebrafish are commonly used in research. Scientists have now developed a met ...
SEP 02, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
The Future of Room-Temperature Superconductors
SEP 02, 2021
The Future of Room-Temperature Superconductors
It begins with two diamonds, a pinch of carbon, sulfur, and a whiff of hydrogen gas. The result is the world’s fir ...
SEP 10, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Wildfire Effects on Air Quality
SEP 10, 2021
Wildfire Effects on Air Quality
Wildfires are becoming a common occurrence in the Western US, and wildfires are expected to increase in severity and num ...
Loading Comments...