Malaria has long been endemic in Kenya’s humid lowlands and its tropical coast. But in recent decades there has been a spike in the number of malaria epidemics in the East African Highlands—an area where the people living there have little experience with the disease.
The East African Highlands are high above sea level. Traditionally, the cool breezy climate has been inhospitable to mosquitoes. But in the late 1990s average temperatures in Kenya’s highlands were as much as 4 degrees higher than normal and the incidence of malaria jumped 300 percent. Many experts believe that climate change is fueling this new epidemic.
Matt Thomas, an entomologist at Penn State University. He believes that temperature plays a key role in the development of malaria parasites in the mosquito, but that it is the daily temperature fluctuations that matter. Understanding these temperature fluctuations will be an important factor in understanding the spread of malaria. He’s studying malaria from the mosquito’s perspective: trying to understand its basic biology so that he can fill in the knowledge gaps of how temperature and environmental change might trigger a malaria epidemic.
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