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Tracking Disease from Space
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science.
Using weather satellites to spot the early signs of El Niño, scientists may be able to save East Africans and their livestock from Rift Valley Fever, a mosquito-borne disease that can be fatal to humans and animals.
By closely monitoring the vegetation in the region affected by increased rainfall, scientists can identify the actual areas affected by outbreaks of Rift Valley Fever. Scientists use satellite images to show regions of Africa that are greener (and wetter) than normal or more brown (and drier) than normal.
This new research was published in the journal Science ("Climate and Satellite Indicators to Forecast Rift Valley Fever Epidemics in Kenya." Linthicum, K. J., et al., July 16, 1999).
Data Source: NOAA AVHRR / Normalized Difference Vegetative Index; Credit: NASA
Using satellite data, scientists predicted an outbreak of Rift Valley fever in East Africa months before the first human cases were reported. The early prediction gave governments time to mitigate the spread of the disease.