Seasonal Patterns of Disease

A third factor subject to seasonal changes is morbidity. In most cases the slack season is also a wet season and the environmental changes may lead to seasonal outbreaks of diseases, such as acute respiratory infections, gastrointestinal tract infections, but also other infectious diseases such as measles, malaria, and guinea worm. Overall mortality also increases. A study in Mali showed that the duration of disease episodes in the rainy season was more than double that in other seasons and that the morbidity episodes in the rainy season accounted for more than half the yearly episodes, particularly fever, diarrhea, and respiratory illness.

Increased morbidity is a consequence of epidemic cycles and environmental factors, but is also related to increased susceptibility to infections, as a result of decreased food intake and increased stress. Impairment of immune function has been documented in a study in undernourished Gambian children aged 6=2-9=2 years, in whom seasonality influenced antibody responses to different vaccines. Some behaviors that are typical for the season also determine increased risk of disease. For example, food may be prepared only once a day and left over for the second meal, thus increasing the risk of contamination; there is less time for personal and household hygiene and this leads to easier spread of gastrointestinal and skin disorders.

Morbidity seriously affects the nutritional status of children and sometimes endangers their lives, but it also impairs labor capacity and imposes further time and financial burden on the households, who have to care for the sick and pay for their treatment.

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