Effects of the 1997-1998 El Niño episode on community rates of diarrhea

Adam Bennett, Leonardo D. Epstein, Robert H. Gilman, Vitaliano Cama, Caryn Bern, Lilia Cabrera, Andres G. Lescano, Jonathan Patz, Cesar Carcamo, Charles R. Sterling, William Checkley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objectives. To improve our understanding of climate variability and diarrheal disease at the community level and inform predictions for future climate change scenarios, we examined whether the El Niñ o climate pattern is associated with increased rates of diarrhea among Peruvian children. Methods. We analyzed daily surveillance data for 367 children aged 0 to 12 years from 2 cohorts in a peri-urban shantytown in Lima, Peru, 1995 through 1998. We stratified diarrheal incidence by 6-month age categories, season, and El Niñ o, and modeled between-subject heterogeneity with random effects Poisson models. Results. Spring diarrheal incidence increased by 55% during El Niñ o compared with before El Niñ o. This increase was most acute among children older than 60 months, for whom the risk of a diarrheal episode during the El Niñ o spring was nearly 100% greater (relative risk = 1.96; 95% confidence interval = 1.24, 3.09). Conclusions. El Niñ o-associated climate variability affects community rates of diarrhea, particularly during the cooler seasons and among older children. Public health officials should develop preventive strategies for future El Niñ o episodes to mitigate the increased risk of diarrheal disease in vulnerable communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E63-E69
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Public Health
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cryptosporidiosis
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Diarrhea
  • El Nino-Southern Oscillation
  • Feces
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Peru
  • Seasons
  • Urban Population


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