Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Satellites Monitoring Dust Storms Linked To Health Risk

Date:
May 11, 2005
Source:
European Space Agency
Summary:
Medical researchers are using satellites to track massive dust storms blowing across Africa's Sahel belt. The aim is to learn more about lethal meningitis epidemics that often follow in the dust's wake.

Desert dust blown from the Western Sahara towards the Canary Islands, seen in this 300-metre resolution Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) image, acquired 1 March 2003. The wind can move between 60 and 200 million tonnes of fine dust up from the Sahara each year.
Credit: Image courtesy of European Space Agency

Medical researchers are using satellites to track massive dust storms blowing across Africa's Sahel belt. The aim is to learn more about lethal meningitis epidemics that often follow in the dust's wake.

Related Articles


"Meningitis outbreaks take place after a period without rain, low humidity and lots of dust in the air," explained Isabelle Jeanne of the Niger-based Centre de Recherche Mιdicale et Sanitaire (CERMES), associated with the international network des Instituts Pasteur and a partner in ESA's Epidemio project.

"The exact correlation is not yet known. But making use of satellite data enables us to follow week by week the development of the dust storms and the appearance of conditions favourable for an epidemic to start."


Meningitis is an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord lining known to cause seizures and deafness in those victims it does not kill outright. Meningococcal meningitis – caused by the meningococcus bacteria – is the only form of the disease to spread in epidemic form. Outbreaks occur throughout the world but are most common in the 'meningitis belt' of semi-arid sub-Saharan territory known as the Sahel.

Meningitis mainly attacks children and young adults. The 18 nations of the Sahel have under-resourced healthcare systems: without treatment 70% of cases will perish, though with prompt anti-biotic therapy the death rate is reduced to one in ten.

Researchers want to study the hypothesis that the Sahel dry season – when wind-blown dust of talcum-powder-consistency can fill the arid air – makes the 300 million inhabitants of this region much more vulnerable to meningitis infection.

The source of infection is other people: up to a quarter of the people may be carrying the source of the meningocuccus bacteria without symptoms, spreading the infection through overcrowded living conditions by droplets from coughing or throat secretions. Normally meningococcus dwells harmlessly in the nose and throat – it is only when it gets into the bloodstream it becomes a potential killer.

"The dryness and dust does not spread the bacteria directly," Jeanne explained. "Instead it seems as though the irritation caused to local inhabitants' mucus membranes renders them more vulnerable to bacterial infection. However an epidemic begins to decrease as soon as the first rain comes."

Therapeutic vaccination is a possibility, and drugs are available to lower morbidity levels. With supplies limited, it would be helpful to be able to anticipate the likeliest times and places of fresh outbreaks.


For this reason, during the last dry season, ESA has been supplying weekly dust maps of the Sahel as part of an early warning system. The maps are based on daily images from the Meteosat Visible and InfraRed Imager (MVIRI) aboard the ESA-built Meteosat-7 geostationary weather satellite.

"The dust maps have been very useful so far," Jeanne added. "There have been no meningitis outbreaks this year - fortunately for the inhabitants - so we cannot show a correlation as yet. The next planned step is to obtain archived images for the last ten years, to search for correlations against our records."

This activity is part of a wide-ranging ESA Data User Element project called Epidemio, developing Earth Observation (EO) services for epidemiologists.

Led for ESA by the company Jena-Optronik GmbH, with partners including the World Health Organisation (WHO), Epidemio is based on the principle that more detailed information on the environments within which infectious diseases occur can help epidemiologists study, understand and predict threats to human health.



Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Space Agency. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Space Agency. "Satellites Monitoring Dust Storms Linked To Health Risk." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 May 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050511072545.htm>.
European Space Agency. (2005, May 11). Satellites Monitoring Dust Storms Linked To Health Risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050511072545.htm
European Space Agency. "Satellites Monitoring Dust Storms Linked To Health Risk." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050511072545.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) — Lava from an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island slowed slightly but stayed on track to hit a shopping center in the small town of Pahoa. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) — A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) — The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) — The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, thanks in part to something called feedback. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins