Malaria jumps when rainforests cut

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Mosquitos with malaria could be worse in deforested areas (Photo: Brad Smith)

By Brett Kessler
Green Right Now

A study published by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that the link between deforestation and disease—in this case, malaria—may not be as tenuous as some have suggested.

Based on satellite data showing the extent of logging in the Amazon and research from 54 Brazilian health districts, the report concludes that even minimal change to the natural landscape can increase the spread of malaria by up to 50 percent.

“The deforested landscape, with more open spaces and partially sunlit pools of water, appears to provide ideal habitat” for the mosquito Anopheles darling, Sarah Olson, a Nelson Institute fellow and primary author of the report, says in a statement. This type of mosquito is more likely to transmit malaria than some related species that thrive in forested areas.

Fellow author Jonathan Patz notes that “in 2006, the county that encompasses these health districts was in the top five of all Brazilian counties with malaria… Even after we adjusted for human populations, access to healthcare and other factors, malaria hotspots paralleled locations with the most destruction of rainforests.”

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