Medical researchers are using satellites to track massive dust storms blowing across Africas Sahel belt. The aim is to learn more about lethal meningitis epidemics that often follow in the dusts wake.
"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 Médicale et Sanitaire (CERMES), associated with the international network des Instituts Pasteur and a partner in ESAs 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.
Mariangela D’Acunto | alfa
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