Is the United States at risk for a large-scale outbreak of Zika or other mosquito-borne disease? While climate conditions in the U.S. are increasingly favorable to mosquitos, socioeconomic factors such as access to clean water and air conditioning make large-scale outbreaks unlikely, according to new analysis of existing research—but small-scale, localized outbreaks are an ongoing concern.
In their forthcoming paper in the Journal of Medical Entomology, “Factors of Concern Regarding Zika and Other Aedes aegypti-Transmitted Viruses in the United States,” Max J. Moreno-Madriñán of the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and independent research entomologist Michael Turell argue that a leading factor in outbreaks of Zika, yellow fever, dengue, and chikungunya—all transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito—is low socioeconomic conditions in developing countries.
While tropical temperatures appear to contribute, historical outbreaks of yellow fever and dengue in the United States as far north as New England show that mosquitos can indeed carry and transmit disease in more temperate climates during summer months. The key difference, the researchers argue, are factors related to low socioeconomic status such as the absence of air conditioning, the absence of screened windows, and the prevalence of household water storage, all of which are uncommon in developed countries like the U.S.