The rapid pace of urbanization makes it imperative that we better understand the influence of climate forcing on urban malaria transmission. Despite extensive study of temperature effects in vector-borne infections in general, consideration of relative humidity remains limited. With process-based dynamical models informed by almost two decades of monthly surveillance data, we address the role of relative humidity in the interannual variability of epidemic malaria in two semi-arid cities of India. We show a strong and significant effect of humidity during the pre-transmission season on malaria burden in coastal Surat and more arid inland Ahmedabad. Simulations of the climate-driven transmission model with the MLE (Maximum Likelihood Estimates) of the parameters retrospectively capture the observed variability of disease incidence, and also prospectively predict that of ‘out-of-fit’ cases in more recent years, with high accuracy. Our findings indicate that relative humidity is a critical factor in the spread of urban malaria and potentially other vector-borne epidemics, and that climate change and lack of hydrological planning in cities might jeopardize malaria elimination efforts.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)