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Malaria Heads North

October 17, 2012

Global warming may drive malaria northward in coming years.



Arctic birds face malaria…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Most people don’t associate malaria with cold places like Alaska, but global warming could change that. Birds suffer from their own version of the disease, and scientists have now discovered that mosquitoes are transmitting it to them as far north as Fairbanks, Alaska. San Francisco State University biologists Claire Loiseau and Ravinger Sehgal conducted the study.

RAVINDER SEHGAL (San Francisco State University):

We expect that with warming temperatures, the mosquitoes might be able to move more northward because they’ll be able to survive when it is warmer.


He says this could spell bad news for some Arctic birds like the snowy owl, which likely have no immunity the parasite.

Birds that have never had tolerance to malaria can get it very quickly and die from it.


He adds that human malaria could also find its way north as the planet warms. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

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Researchers brave mosquitoes to study avian malaria in Alaska. (Ravinder Sehgal/San Francisco State University)