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Extreme weather conditions can add to burden of disease in long run: study

LiveMint logoLiveMint 01-08-2017 Neetu Chandra Sharma

New Delhi: Proving that climate change can affect human health, the Department of Science & Technology has established that extreme weather conditions can add to the burden of disease in the long run.

The department in association with the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Italy, carried out a research at Sir Sunder Lal Hospital, Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi (UP) for a period of ten years from 2004 to 2014.

Information collected through admission registers maintained by doctors was analyzed against weather data obtained from the India Meteorological Department (IMD), that included mean daily maximum and minimum temperatures, relative humidity and rainfall.

“Tuberculosis (TB) showed a trend of increase of 7.1 patients in 10 years. Among vector borne diseases malaria admissions increased by 2.3 patients in 10 years, dengue by 1.3 patients in 10 years and encephalitis by 2.2 patients in 10 years but all are insignificant. A 1 degree Celsius increase in minimum monthly temperature showed increase of TB patients by 4. One per cent increase of monthly averaged relative humidity is estimated to increase one pneumonia patient at any given month,” said Dr Akhilesh Gupta, adviser and head, Climate Change Programme, Department of Science & Technology.

“One-degree increase in given monthly temperature will increase the load of one diarrhoea patient monthly. Vector borne diseases are directly affected by relative humidity. High temperature with constant dew point increases relative humidity and thus vector survival. Dengue and Malaria patients showed increasing monthly malaria cases by 5 with 1 degree Celsius rise in minimum monthly temperature and by 1 patient with increase in 1% relative humidity. Encephalitis showed an increase of two patient load with monthly increase of 1 degree Celsius in maximum temperature,” said Dr R.K. Mall, Department of Science and Technology, Mahaman Centre for Excellence in Climate Change Research, BHU. The study has also been published in the latest issue of MAUSAM, a journal of IMD.

Sir Sunder Lal Hospital was chosen because it is the only Tertiary Care Hospital providing specialty and Super Specialty services to the health care needs of about 200 million people in eastern UP, western Bihar, adjoining MP, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand as well as Nepal.

The time series analysis of maximum temperature showed an increase of 0.04 degree Celsius per decade while minimum temperature showed increase by 0.02 degree Celsius per decade. Since 2004-2014 the total number of days above 45 degree Celsius was 8 and above 40 degree Celsius were 44 days per year. The total extreme rainfall days above 50 mm per day were 16 in 2004-2014.

“Climate variability and human health are complex and multi-layered and predictions of the future health impact of climate change are still uncertain. Over India the annual and seasonal maximum and minimum temperature has increased during the last decades and projection of the future climate scenarios also shows extreme events will exhibit an increase in frequency and intensity resulting in disastrous impact on human life in terms of death toll and disease epidemic,” said Dr Gupta.

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