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Malaria Tracking

 

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Overview
Mosquitoes aren't just irritating. They can carry diseases like malaria, a huge problem for people who live in the tropics where mosquitoes breed year-round. Malaria endangers the lives of millions worldwide, and the numbers are increasing. Malaria is caused by a parasite that infects mosquitoes in the genus Anopheles. Both male and female mosquitoes feed on plant nectar, but females of most kinds of mosquitoes need a blood meal for protein so their bodies can make eggs. Anyone bitten by an infected female anopheles can also be infected with the malaria parasite. One way to stop malaria and other diseases carried by mosquitoes is to eliminate the mosquitoes themselves. But many kinds of mosquitoes have become resistant to chemicals that have been used to get rid of them. New techniques are needed. For example, scientists have stocked mosquito fish in storm water ponds along highways as a biological control. This small, minnow-type fish consumes hundreds of mosquito larvae per day. Eliminating the places where mosquitoes breed works well when it is possible. But it's tough for people to locate anopheles mosquito breeding sites in deep, dense rain forests. That's where using satellites can help. Satellites that gather information through a technique called remote sensing help track the breeding sites of anopheles mosquitoes. Things on the ground, such as vegetation cover, standing pools of water, or human settlements, emit electromagnetic radiation. This radiation shows up as certain colors when picked up by infrared cameras aboard satellites. When fed into a computerized information base called a Geographic Information System (GIS), these remotely sensed images can be useful in interpreting what is happening on the ground. Infrared cameras are used because they reveal more information than can be obtained from images taken with visible light. Heat characteristics of objects can be observed during night and day with infrared cameras. A GIS uses the power of the computer to help answer geographic questions by arranging and displaying useful information about places in maps, charts, or tables. When ground events or situations can be correlated with data sent from remote satellites, experts will be able to predict ground conditions from satellite data. This correlation is done though a process called ground truthing, or finding out through field studies how satellite images correspond to what is actually happening on the ground. When experts know the kind of vegetation anopheles mosquitoes prefer to feed on, and if they can see from satellite images where it is growing, they can plan and monitor long-term campaigns for the control of malaria.

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