Climate factors like hot and cold temperatures play a vital role in the increase in the number of gastroenteritis-related hospital admissions, reports a new study. The findings of the study are published in the journal Environment International.
A new study performed by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an institution supported by "la Caixa" Foundation, analyzed for the first time the association between climate and hospitalizations due to the infection over a 17 year-period in Spain.
‘Climate factors are associated with an increase in the number of gastroenteritis-related hospital admissions.’
Diarrheal diseases, although preventable and treatable, are the second leading global cause of death among children under five years of age. In 2015, 1,31 million people worldwide died from gastroenteritis.
To date, few studies have addressed the association between climate factors- temperature and rain- and gastrointestinal disease incidence in high-income countries. In most cases, heat and heavy rainfall were associated with an increase in infections.
The aim of this study, published in Environment International, was to evaluate the association between meteorological variables and gastroenteritis hospitalizations in Spain - between 1997 and 2013, 275,182 cases were registered, with an average of 44 cases per day.
Hospitalization data were obtained from administrative records, and cases, where gastroenteritis was the primary diagnosis, were selected. Meteorological data were obtained from the European Climate Assessment & Dataset. The study correlated daily hospital admissions with the corresponding meteorological variables.
The results indicate that "temperature plays an important role in the increase of hospital admissions due to gastroenteritis," explains Clara Morral Puigmal, first author of the study. In particular, the number of hospital admissions was lowest on days where the temperature was of 12°C. In contrast, hospital admissions increased by 7% on cold days (where the average temperature was of 6ºC) and by 21% on hot days with an average temperature of 26ºC.
Hot temperatures mostly increased hospitalizations due to foodborne gastroenteritis. "This is probably due to the fact that heat promotes the growth of bacteria in food," explains ISGlobal researcher Xavier Basagaña and coordinator of the study. Rotaviral infections, in contrast, were associated with cold temperatures. In this case, "it is probably due to the fact that in cold weather we spend more time indoors, with less ventilation, which increases transmission between people," he adds.
The study also found that rainfall decreases the risk of gastroenteritis by 26%. "This effect was unexpected," says Basagaña, "and could be due to lower exposure to recreational waters during rainy periods."
The results were similar for both sexes, although women had an increased risk under extreme heat. Infants under one year of age were most susceptible to cold.
Xavier Basagaña concludes that these results are relevant in view of the climate changes we are experiencing, whereby extreme temperatures and climate events are becoming increasingly frequent.