How Will Malaria Be Affected By Climate Change?

Malaria is a tropical disease that is spread by mosquitos.  It is caused when a mosquito infected with a plasmodial parasite bites a human.  There are four types of malarial parasites that can cause infection.  Malaria is a very serious illness that can sometimes be fatal.  It is therefore important that you are aware of which countries are a high risk before you travel.

The following parts of the world are high-risk areas; Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, parts of the Middle East and some Pacific Islands.  As you can see these places are much warmer and ideal habitats for mosquitoes than European countries. 

Climate change is a very real issue that is already affecting temperatures around the world.  When we consider global warming we only think about the big effects such as; flooding, melting ice caps and general temperature rises.  Diseases thrive in warm climates so it makes sense to consider the implication of global warming on malaria.

The Life Cycle Of A Mosquito

When it comes to mosquitoes the female is more deadly than the male. Female mosquitoes bite humans and feed on their blood while males just feed on plant nectar.  Basically, these insects have determined mothers who want the best for their children.  This is the life cycle of a mosquito:-

  • Eggs are laid either directly into water or on leaves floating on the water. The eggs hatch when exposed to water.
  • The larva is known as, ‘wigglers’, swim in the water while they grow and eat food provided by the mother.  They go to the service of the water to breathe.
  • Pupa or, ‘tumbler’, stage.  This is similar to being in a cocoon and no food is consumed during this time.
  • The adult emerges from the pupa and is able to fly.  Once the body has dried the mosquitos are ready to ruin people’s holidays.

If global warming was to continue then more countries are likely to develop the right conditions to encourage mosquitos to breed.

Climate Change And Malaria

The Independent reports that studies have shown that as the temperature rises mosquitos migrate to higher altitudes. This means that areas that were once malaria free are starting to be affected by the disease.  Highland areas in the tropics have a much greater population due to increased rainfall.  Evidence shows that Malaria is spreading already due to climate change.  Mosquitos who carry malarial parasites thrive in warmer climates.  People who live at higher altitudes have avoided infection due to the cooler temperature being a hostile environment for mosquitoes.  Now, this is changing and malaria is more prevalent in these areas.  

The World Health Organisation has also noted that climate change has a great impact on malaria.  Monsoons and increased rainfall provide the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos.

Treatment And Prevention

Doxycycline, Atovaquone Proguanil and Malarone are antimalarials.  They have slight differences in dosage but all require the medication to be taken before during and after your holiday.  All of these medications are relatively new and generally, most people are not affected by side effects.  This medication can only be prescribed by your doctor who will make sure that you get the treatment that suits you the best.

As well as taking medication you can take steps to avoid being bitten  These include; wearing loose clothing that covers your arms and legs, insect repellant, mosquito nets, repellant candles and diffusers.  If you avoid getting bitten then you are at less risk of contracting malaria.  

If on your return you encounter any of the following symptoms; high temperature, sweats and chills, headaches, vomiting, muscle pain and diarrhoea. You must contact your doctor because it is possible to suffer from delayed symptoms.

If you would like to review or order malaria treatment please click here.