A Method for Screening Climate Change-Sensitive Infectious Diseases

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A Method for Screening Climate Change-Sensitive Infectious Diseases

by Sarah Lindsay January 22, 2015


Yunjing Wang, Yuhan Rao, Xiaoxu Wu, Hainan Zhao, and Jin Chen.


Climate change is a significant and emerging threat to human health, especially where infectious diseases are involved. Because of the complex interactions between climate variables and infectious disease components (i.e., pathogen, host and transmission environment), systematically and quantitatively screening for infectious diseases that are sensitive to climate change is still a challenge. To address this challenge, we propose a new statistical indicator, Relative Sensitivity, to identify the difference between the sensitivity of the infectious disease to climate variables for two different climate statuses (i.e., historical climate and present climate) in non-exposure and exposure groups. The case study in Anhui Province, China has demonstrated the effectiveness of this Relative Sensitivity indicator. The application results indicate significant sensitivity of many epidemic infectious diseases to climate change in the form of changing climatic variables, such as temperature, precipitation and absolute humidity. As novel evidence, this research shows that absolute humidity has a critical influence on many observed infectious diseases in Anhui Province, including dysentery, hand, foot and mouth disease, hepatitis A, hemorrhagic fever, typhoid fever, malaria, meningitis, influenza and schistosomiasis. Moreover, some infectious diseases are more sensitive to climate change in rural areas than in urban areas. This insight provides guidance for future health inputs that consider spatial variability in response to climate change.


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