Temporal Relationships Between Saharan Dust Proxies, Climate, and Meningitis in Senegal

Aara’L Y. Yarber, Gregory S. Jenkins, Ajit Singh, Aminata Diokhane

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The Harmattan, a dry, northeasterly trade wind, transports large quantities of Saharan dust over the Sahelian region during the dry season (December–March). Studies have shown that bacterial meningitis outbreaks in Sahelian regions show hyper-endemic to endemic levels during high-dust months. We examine the (a) seasonality and intraseasonal variability of dust, climate, and meningitis and the (b) quantitative relationships between various dust proxies with meningitis lags of 0–10 weeks in Senegal from 2012 to 2017. The results show that the onset of the meningitis season occurs in February, roughly 2 months after the dusty season has begun. The meningitis season peaks at the beginning of April, when northeasterly wind speeds and particulate matter (PM) are relatively high, and the meningitis season ends near the end of June, when temperature and humidity rise and northeasterly wind speeds decline. Furthermore, we find that Senegal's relatively high humidity year-round may help slow the transmission of the infection, contributing to a lower disease incidence than landlocked countries in the meningitis belt. Lastly, our results suggest the desert dust may have a significant impact on the onset to the peak of the meningitis season in Senegal, particularly at the 0–2 and 10-week lag, whether that be directly through biological processes or indirectly through changes in human behavior. PM and visibility, however, are not in phase with aerosol optical depth throughout the year and consequently show different relationships with meningitis. This study further exemplifies the critical need for more PM, meteorological, and meningitis measurements in West Africa to further resolve these relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021GH000574
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Epidemiology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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