Investigating regional differences in short-term effects of air pollution on daily mortality in the APHEA project: a sensitivity analysis for controlling long-term trends and seasonality. (25/740)

Short-term effects of air pollution on daily mortality in eight western and five central-eastern European countries have been reported previously, as part of the APHEA project. One intriguing finding was that the effects were lower in central-eastern European cities. The analysis used sinusoidal terms for seasonal control and polynomial terms for meteorologic variables, but this is a more rigid approach than the currently accepted method, which uses generalized additive models (GAM). We therefore reanalyzed the original data to examine the sensitivity of the results to the statistical model. The data were identical to those used in the earlier analyses. The outcome was the daily total number of deaths, and the pollutants analyzed were black smoke (BS) and sulfur dioxide (SO(2)). The analyses were restricted to days with pollutant concentration < 200 microg/m(3) and < 150 microg/m(3) alternately. We used Poisson regression in a GAM model, and combined individual city regression coefficients using fixed and random-effect models. An increase in BS by 50 microg/m(3) was associated with a 2.2% and 3.1% increase in mortality when analysis was restricted to days < 200 microg/m(3) and < 150 microg/m(3), respectively. The corresponding figures were 5.0% and 5.6% for a similar increase in SO(2). These estimates are larger than the ones published previously: by 69% for BS and 55% for SO(2). The increase occurred only in central-eastern European cities. The ratio of western to central-eastern cities for estimates was reduced to 1.3 for BS (previously 4.8) and 2.6 for SO(2) (previously 4.4). We conclude that part of the heterogeneity in the estimates of air pollution effects between western and central-eastern cities reported in previous publications was caused by the statistical approach used and the inclusion of days with pollutant levels above 150 microg/m(3). However, these results must be investigated further.  (+info)

The potential impacts of climate variability and change on health impacts of extreme weather events in the United States. (26/740)

Extreme weather events such as precipitation extremes and severe storms cause hundreds of deaths and injuries annually in the United States. Climate change may alter the frequency, timing, intensity, and duration of these events. Increases in heavy precipitation have occurred over the past century. Future climate scenarios show likely increases in the frequency of extreme precipitation events, including precipitation during hurricanes, raising the risk of floods. Frequencies of tornadoes and hurricanes cannot reliably be projected. Injury and death are the direct health impacts most often associated with natural disasters. Secondary effects, mediated by changes in ecologic systems and public health infrastructure, also occur. The health impacts of extreme weather events hinge on the vulnerabilities and recovery capacities of the natural environment and the local population. Relevant variables include building codes, warning systems, disaster policies, evacuation plans, and relief efforts. There are many federal, state, and local government agencies and nongovernmental organizations involved in planning for and responding to natural disasters in the United States. Future research on health impacts of extreme weather events should focus on improving climate models to project any trends in regional extreme events and as a result improve public health preparedness and mitigation. Epidemiologic studies of health effects beyond the direct impacts of disaster will provide a more accurate measure of the full health impacts and will assist in planning and resource allocation.  (+info)

Thunderstorm outflows preceding epidemics of asthma during spring and summer. (27/740)

BACKGROUND: A study was undertaken to assess the importance of thunderstorms as a cause of epidemics of asthma exacerbations and to investigate the underlying mechanism. METHODS: A case control study was performed in six towns in south eastern Australia. Epidemic case days (n = 48) and a random sample of control days (n = 191) were identified by reference to the difference between the observed and expected number of emergency department attendances for asthma. The occurrence of thunderstorms, their associated outflows and cold fronts were ascertained, blind to case status, for each of these days. In addition, the relation of hourly pollen counts to automatic weather station data was examined in detail for the period around one severe epidemic of asthma exacerbations. The main outcome measure was the number of epidemics of asthma exacerbations. RESULTS: Thunderstorm outflows were detected on 33% of epidemic days and only 3% of control days (odds ratio 15.0, 95% confidence interval 6.0 to 37.6). The association was strongest in late spring and summer. Detailed examination of one severe epidemic showed that its onset coincided with the arrival of the thunderstorm outflow and a 4-12 fold increase in the ambient concentration of grass pollen grains. CONCLUSIONS: These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that some epidemics of exacerbations of asthma are caused by high concentrations of allergenic particles produced by an outflow of colder air, associated with the downdraught from a thunderstorm, sweeping up pollen grains and particles and then concentrating them in a shallow band of air at ground level. This is a common cause of exacerbations of asthma during the pollen season.  (+info)

Short report: Asthma admissions and weather conditions in Costa Rica. (28/740)

In Costa Rica there is little information about asthma admissions. In this report the monthly asthma admissions and weather data for a seven year period were reviewed. The hospital asthma admissions showed notable seasonal variation associated with variations in the rainfall and the relative humidity.  (+info)

Age, sex, density, winter weather, and population crashes in Soay sheep. (29/740)

Quantifying the impact of density, extrinsic climatic fluctuations, and demography on population fluctuations is a persistent challenge in ecology. We analyzed the effect of these processes on the irregular pattern of population crashes of Soay sheep on the St. Kilda archipelago, United Kingdom. Because the age and sex structure of the population fluctuates independently of population size, and because animals of different age and sex respond in different ways to density and weather, identical weather conditions can result in different dynamics in populations of equal size. In addition, the strength of density-dependent processes is a function of the distribution of weather events. Incorporating demographic heterogeneities into population models can influence dynamics and their response to climate change.  (+info)

Seasonal variation in host susceptibility and cycles of certain infectious diseases. (30/740)

Seasonal cycles of infectious diseases have been variously attributed to changes in atmospheric conditions, the prevalence or virulence of the pathogen, or the behavior of the host. Some observations about seasonality are difficult to reconcile with these explanations. These include the simultaneous appearance of outbreaks across widespread geographic regions of the same latitude; the detection of pathogens in the off-season without epidemic spread; and the consistency of seasonal changes, despite wide variations in weather and human behavior. In contrast, an increase in susceptibility of the host population, perhaps linked to the annual light/dark cycle and mediated by the pattern of melatonin secretion, might account for many heretofore unexplained features of infectious disease seasonality. Ample evidence indicates that photoperiod-driven physiologic changes are typical in mammalian species, including some in humans. If such physiologic changes underlie human resistance to infectious diseases for large portions of the year and the changes can be identified and modified, the therapeutic and preventive implications may be considerable.  (+info)

Coupling between annual and ENSO timescales in the malaria-climate association in Colombia. (31/740)

We present evidence that the El Nino phenomenon intensifies the annual cycle of malaria cases for Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium falciparum in endemic areas of Colombia as a consequence of concomitant anomalies in the normal annual cycle of temperature and precipitation. We used simultaneous analyses of both variables at both timescales, as well as correlation and power spectral analyses of detailed spatial (municipal) and temporal (monthly) records. During "normal years," endemic malaria in rural Colombia exhibits a clear-cut "normal" annual cycle, which is tightly associated with prevalent climatic conditions, mainly mean temperature, precipitation, dew point, and river discharges. During historical El Nino events (interannual time scale), the timing of malaria outbreaks does not change from the annual cycle, but the number of cases intensifies. Such anomalies are associated with a consistent pattern of hydrological and climatic anomalies: increase in mean temperature, decrease in precipitation, increase in dew point, and decrease in river discharges, all of which favor malaria transmission. Such coupling explains why the effect appears stronger and more persistent during the second half of El Nino's year (0), and during the first half of the year (+1). We illustrate this finding with data for diverse localities in Buenaventura (on the Pacific coast) and Caucasia (along the Cauca river floodplain), but conclusions have been found valid for multiple localities throughout endemic regions of Colombia. The identified coupling between annual and interannual timescales in the climate-malaria system shed new light toward understanding the exact linkages between environmental, entomological, and epidemiological factors conductive to malaria outbreaks, and also imposes the coupling of those timescales in public health intervention programs.  (+info)

Corticosterone levels predict survival probabilities of Galapagos marine iguanas during El Nino events. (32/740)

Plasma levels of corticosterone are often used as a measure of "stress" in wild animal populations. However, we lack conclusive evidence that different stress levels reflect different survival probabilities between populations. Galapagos marine iguanas offer an ideal test case because island populations are affected differently by recurring El Nino famine events, and population-level survival can be quantified by counting iguanas locally. We surveyed corticosterone levels in six populations during the 1998 El Nino famine and the 1999 La Nina feast period. Iguanas had higher baseline and handling stress-induced corticosterone concentrations during famine than feast conditions. Corticosterone levels differed between islands and predicted survival through an El Nino period. However, among individuals, baseline corticosterone was only elevated when body condition dropped below a critical threshold. Thus, the population-level corticosterone response was variable but nevertheless predicted overall population health. Our results lend support to the use of corticosterone as a rapid quantitative predictor of survival in wild animal populations.  (+info)