Malaria in Brazil linked to forest clearing
Clearing forests in the Amazon helps mosquitoes thrive and can send malaria rates soaring, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.
They found a 48 percent increase in malaria cases in one county in Brazil after 4.2 percent of its tree cover was cleared.
Their findings, published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, shows links between cutting down trees, a rise in the number of mosquitoes and infections of humans.
"It appears that deforestation is one of the initial ecological factors that can trigger a malaria epidemic," said Sarah Olson of the University of Wisconsin, who worked on the study.
Experts are already worried that the destruction of Brazil's Amazon forests can help drive climate change. Big fires, set by farmers to clear land for agriculture, are the main cause of deforestation.
One team estimated earlier this month that 19,000 square km (7,300 square miles) of forest had been lost every year in Brazil from 1998 to 2007.
The new study shows the immediate health consequences, the researchers said.
"Conservation policy and public health policy are one and the same," Jonathan Patz, the professor who oversaw the work, said in a telephone interview. "How we manage our landscapes and, in this case, tropical rain forest has implications for public health."
Malaria, caused by a parasite transmitted by mosquitoes, kills about 860,000 people a year globally, according to the World Health Organization. Brazil has about 500,000 cases a year of malaria, most carried by Anopheles darling mosquito.
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