Africa’s Sahel region has the greatest incidence of meningitis. Some factors attributing to the epidemic have been found to be population susceptibility, introduction of new strains, poor living conditions, and concurrent infections. Epidemics occur throughout Africa in the dry season, coincide with periods of very low humidity and dusty conditions, and disappear with the onset of the rains, suggesting that these environmental factors may also play an important role in the occurrence of the disease.
Since the timing of future outbreaks is unpredictable, tools that identify the key environmental factors associated with areas prone to meningitis epidemics, such as GIS, are helpful to understanding the basis for these outbreaks and can eventually optimize prevention and control activities.
Analysis done from the study indicates not only that absolute humidity profiles and land-cover types can be used to distinguish between areas with high and low risk of epidemics but also that population density and dust may also be implicated. The potential role of dust in precipitating epidemics is particularly interesting since dustiness in the meningitis belt has increased dramatically since the Sahelian droughts of the 1970s and 1980s. However, how environmental variables interact is unclear and remains the subject of extensive climatologic research. A combination of conditions is likely to be necessary for an epidemic to occur, and nonenvironmental variables are likely to have additional predictive potential and should be considered in further studies.
For more information, please read the full study here.
Melissa Lawrence, Social Marketing Administrator, VERTICES, LLC