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Archive for July 23rd, 2009

Jul 23 2009

Remote sensing will help predict disease epidemics

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

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A report from IRIN describes the work of scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Agency (NASA) who are developing remote sensing methods to monitor the environmental conditions that cause Rift Valley Fever (RVF). This viral disease, spread by mosquitoes, is a serious problem in cattle in the Horn of Africa but is also emerging as a threat to humans. Outbreaks in recent years have claimed several thousand lives.

NASA hopes to use remote sensing, “a technique that uses recorded or real-time wireless sensing devices to collect information on an object or phenomenon,” to determine the environmental conditions that lead to outbreaks. Details of the project were presented at a conference held in Cape Town - the International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium, Earth Observation - Origins to Application.

The IRIN report says also that the potential of remote sensing in the control of other infections is being investigated by the Swiss Tropical Institute and a German company, Jenoptik. According to Kathrin Weise, a Jenoptik software engineer: “The land cover classification and statistical methods … will be used in our projects to map risk areas and environmental conditions for an outbreak of epidemics of different vector-borne diseases like malaria, meningitis, and Buruli ulcer disease”.

Jul 23 2009

Plasmodium, people and penguins

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

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It is rare that TropIKA.net features a news story not directly related to human health but many of our readers will I am sure be fascinated to learn that malaria is a health threat not just to people but to penguins.

Whilst mainly associated with the world’s coldest places, some penguin species spend some or all of their time in warmer climes, including the Galapagos Islands. The New Scientist reports that the Galapagos Penguin, already an endangered species, is commonly infected with Plasmodium malaria parasites. Five per cent of penguins tested were found to be infected and while they were considered still to be in good health the strain of the parasite is related to a form of Plasmodium that causes serious avian malaria amongst penguins living in zoos.

It seems that ships and flights bringing people to the islands have been responsible for introducing mosquitoes capable of transmitting the parasite. Global warming and declining fish stocks are already threatening the survival of the Galapagos Penguin. Malaria is the last thing they need.