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The Zika virus continues to spread across the world, and medical researchers are understandably alarmed. There is strong evidence, increasing by the day, that the Zika virus is causing babies to be born with abnormally shrunken heads, called microcephaly. In the most horrific instance to date, one newborn was stillborn after the virus appeared to have destroyed most of its brain.
Although for most a Zika infection is comparatively harmless, pregnant women are at incredible danger from this virus. Naturally, people are wondering where Zika may head to next. Regrettably, a new study published in the journal PLOS Currents: Outbreaks has showcased just how much of the U.S. is a perfect home for this particular proliferating virus.
Zika is spread by mosquitoes of theAedesgenus particularly the species Aedes aegypti of various kinds of primates, including humen. Hence, wherever this mosquito can live and reproduce, the virus can spread. As it turns out, this mosquito is happy in humid, hot climates, which would explain why it has kept its stronghold on much of South America for so long. This is typified by Brazil, where there have been at least 1.5 million cases of infection to date.
This also explains why instances have flared up in Hawaii, and why a previous examine has predicted that humid states like Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and the south of California are ripe for Zika virus outbreaks. This new study reinforces these findings, confirming that these southern states are likely to suffer from spikes in A. aegypti populations.
Using disease transmission simulations driven by changes in climate, the team of researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research( NCAR) determined that warm summertime weather above the equator would encourage Zika-carrying mosquitos to spread further northwards. This coming summertime is likely to be no exception, and the southern U.S. will be swarming with Ae. aegypti by the time July swings around especially Miami.
The most at-risk regions for Zika outbreaks in the United States in July. NCAR
Worryingly, major cities further north along the eastern seaboard, including New York City, will also likely watch Ae. aegypti beginning to appear. This isnt just because of the summer weather, however: Big cities are likely to have a higher influx of people traveling in from countries already experiencing severe Zika outbreaks. When they arrive, the Zika instances will register as occurring in these big metropolises. Additionally, there is a chance they will spread the disease through sex.
Areas in the U.S. rife with poverty, featuring dilapidated homes, high occurrences of stagnant water, and poor sanitation, will likely prove the most rapid spread of Ae. aegypti. Consequently, the most impoverished areas of the U.S ., particularly those in Florida, will be the most prone to Zika outbreaks. Fortunately, the authors note thatthanks to better illnes control and better overall infrastructure, outbreaks in the U.S. are likely to be far less severe than those watched across South America.
In any case, this study and others like it will boost the U.S. governments attempt to stymy the spread of the virus the summer months by devoting officers a forewarning of Zikas most likely transmission path. Even if the virus is transmitted here in the continental U.S ., a quick response can reduce its impact, said Mary Hayden, a medical anthropologist at NCAR and co-author of the study, in a statement.