Science

El Niño And Climate Change Blamed For Zika Virus Outbreak

By Dante Noe Raquel II , Dec 20, 2016 04:19 PM EST
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Climate outlines caused by El Nino could have amplified reproduction rates in the mosquito types that carry the Zika virus and allowed those mosquitoes to live longer, scientists found. The weather phenomenon might have aided the uncontrolled spread of Zika Virus throughout South America.

"Temperature conditions were exceptionally conducive for mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus over South America in 2015, related to the El Nino phenomenon superimposed on the global warming trend," said lead author Cyril Caminade. He's a research associate with the University of Liverpool Institute of Infection and Global Health in England.

Zika can cause overwhelming birth defects in babies visible to the virus in the womb. One of these birth imperfections, microcephaly, can cause babies to be born with a smaller-than-normal head or skull and with the size, an underdeveloped brain emerges. Zika contaminations can also cause neurological problems, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, in adults.

More Than 80,000 People In 69 Countries Have Been Infected Zika Outbreak that Originated In Brazil In 2015

For this account, the investigators combined estimates of mosquito populations with temperature-dependent factors acknowledged to influence the chances a mosquito will pass along a tropical disease. For example, warm temperatures can reduce the time it takes for a virus to settled. The researchers determined that the 2015 El Nino, together with climate warming, likely supported the Zika outbreak in Latin America.

El Nino's influence continues to be felt through the current winter weather, but Caminade expects its influence on Zika to be done for now. "The situation in South America for the next mosquito season, from December to March, should be better as the population has already been exposed to Zika virus in 2015 and natural immunity should kick in," Caminade said.

"There will still be risk of Zika virus transmission over the southeastern United States during summer 2017, Florida and Texas in particular, but this will be largely conditioned by the volume of infected travelers coming back or visiting these states," he said. "The quality of public health services in the U.S. should prevent what we observed in Brazil in 2015."

Dr. Amesh Adalja is a senior associate with the University of Pittsburgh's UPMC Center for Health Security. He said the purported El Nino effect is "not surprising and reinforces the need to account for the intricacies of weather patterns when studying the trajectory and origins of infectious disease outbreaks."

It is well-known that ecological conditions such as conditions can have major impacts on the spread of various transmittable diseases, Adalja continued. "Diseases like Zika, because of their reliance on mosquitoes for transmission, have an added element of environmental dependency derived from how mosquitoes are impacted," he said.

"What really moves these mosquitoes over time has been all the additional breeding sites from the nonbiodegradable aspect of the world," Osterholm said. As he doubts El Niño participation in widespread-outbreak.

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