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CR 19:35-43 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/cr019035

Dengue epidemics and the El Niño Southern Oscillation

Alexandre S. Gagnon1,*, Andrew B. G. Bush2, Karen E. Smoyer-Tomic2

1Department of Geography, University of Toronto, Rm 5047, 100 St. George St., Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G3, Canada
2Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, 1-26 Earth Sciences Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E3, Canada

ABSTRACT: The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the 1997/98 El Niño might have been the cause of the dengue fever epidemics in many tropical countries. Because of the interaction between the atmosphere and the ocean, the warm El Niño and the cold La Niña phases of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) engender significant temperature and precipitation anomalies around the world. This paper presents the results of a correlation analysis of past ENSO events with dengue epidemics across the Indonesian archipelago and northern South America. Our analysis shows that there is a statistically significant correlation at the 95% confidence level between El Niño and dengue epidemics in French Guiana and Indonesia and at the 90% confidence level in Colombia and Surinam. These regions experience statistically significant warmer temperatures and less rainfall during El Niño years. Public health officials could therefore strongly benefit from El Niño forecasts, and they should emphasise control activities such as insecticide sprayings and media campaigns concerning the potential breeding sites of dengue mosquitoes during these years.

KEY WORDS: El Niño · Dengue · Epidemics · Temperature · Rainfall · Indonesia · South America

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