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Warmer Months to Aid in Local Spread of Zika

MAR 22, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR
At the moment, there have not yet been any locally transmitted Zika infections in the continental US, however, a recent study reports that this might change in the coming months.

Current US Zika Status

Due to its possible connection to several neurological disorders, Zika is one of the most terrifying viruses in recent history. Thankfully, testing for the virus has become easier. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published on March 18, 2016, notes that 116 residents in 33 US cities and the District of Columbia tested positive for the Zika virus disease since January 1, 2016. Of the 116 diagnosed with Zika, five had contracted it through intercourse, while one infection was passed congenitally from mother to infant.

Since approximately 80% of individuals infected with the Zika virus do not present with symptoms, the aforementioned number only reflects those who were actually tested by the CDC as a result of suspected infection. Of those individuals who tested positive, 113 experienced a rash, 94 experienced fever, and 76 had arthralgia (joint pain).

Anticipated Local Zika Transmission

With over 100 cases of locally-transmitted Zika infections in Puerto Rico, a group of researchers used computer simulations for 50 US cities to estimate the course of travel of adult Aedes aegypti mosquitos. The study, published in the March 16 issue of Plos Currents: Outbreak, found that although Aedes aegypti can endure the spring and fall weather in many southern US states, they have low chances of survival outside of Florida and Texas in winter months. Nonetheless, this year’s anticipated extremely-warm summer climates may cause the abundance of the mosquitos across the United States, including largely populated cities, such as New York in the northeast and Los Angeles in the west.

Co-author, Andrew Monaghan, Ph.D., a researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in a news release that, with this research, the location and timing of possible Zika outbreaks can be predicted. Commenting on the importance of this research, he stated, “While there is much we still don't know about the dynamics of Zika virus transmission, understanding where the Aedes aegypti mosquito can survive in the US and how its abundance fluctuates seasonally may help guide mosquito-control efforts and public health preparedness.”

Further analysis of travel patterns to and from Zika infected territories, along with the forecasted climate change, revealed that cities in southern Florida and southern Texas may be at high risk of locally transmitted Zika virus.

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