Malaria is a major public health burden in the tropics with the potential to significantly increase in response to climate change. Analyses of data from the recent past can elucidate how short-term variations in weather factors affect malaria transmission.
This study explored the impact of climate variability on the transmission of malaria in the tropical rain forest area of Mengla County, south-west China. Ecological time-series analysis was performed ondata collected between 1971 and 1999. Auto-regressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) models were used to evaluate the relationship between weather factors and malaria incidence.
At the time scale of months, the predictors for malaria incidence included: minimum temperature, maximum temperature, and fog day frequency. The effect of minimum temperature on malaria incidence was greater in the cool months than in the hot months. The fog day frequency in October had a positive effect on malaria incidence in May of the following year. At the time scale of years, the annual fog day frequency was the only weather predictor of the annual incidence of malaria.
Fog day frequency was for the first time found to be a predictor of malaria incidence in a rain forest area. The one-year delayed effect of fog on malaria transmission may involve providing water input and maintaining aquatic breeding sites for mosquitoes in vulnerable times when there is little rainfall in the 6-month dry seasons.
These findings should be considered in the prediction of future patterns of malaria for similar tropical rain forest areas worldwide.