The timing of a hurricane is one of the primary factors influencing its impact on the spread of mosquito-borne infectious diseases such as West Nile Virus, dengue, chikungunya and Zika, according to a study led by Georgia State University.
Researchers from Georgia State and Arizona State University developed a mathematical model to study the impact of heavy rainfall events (HREs) such as hurricanes on the transmission of vector-borne infectious diseases in temperate areas of the world, including the southern coastal U.S. In the aftermath of this type of extreme weather event, the mosquito population often booms in the presence of stagnant water. At the same time, the breakdown of public and private health infrastructure can put people at increased risk of infection. The study, which was published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, found that the risk of a disease outbreak is highest if the HRE occurs early in the transmission season, or the period of time when mosquitoes are able to pass on the virus to humans.
According to the study, an HRE that occurs on July 1 results in 70 percent fewer disease cases compared to an HRE that occurs on June 1.
“Mosquitoes are very sensitive to temperature not only in terms of their ability to survive and reproduce, but also in their ability to infect individuals,” said Dr. Gerardo Chowell, professor of mathematical epidemiology in the Georgia State University School of Public Health and lead author of the study. “The warmer it is, the faster an infected mosquito will be able to transmit the virus. Considering that mosquitoes have an average lifespan of less than two weeks, that temperature difference can have a dramatic effect on disease outbreaks.”
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