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January-February 2009

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Weather Front



Reducing Disease Threat

In November, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) launched a long-term project to use forecasting technology to help officials in sub-Saharan Africa anticipate meningitis outbreaks.

Meningitis, which killed 25,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa’s “meningitis belt” in 1996-1997, is associated with dry and dusty weather. Researchers speculate that such weather might irritate the mucus linings in the respiratory system, leading to meningitis. Others posit that the dusty season brings more people indoors, allowing epidemics to spread more quickly. Forecasting such dry spells could help medical officials more effectively distribute their limited supply of vaccinations to areas in Africa that have greater risk.

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