In a recently completed study, Indiana University School of Public Health Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics Dr. Erik Nelson along with colleagues from Saint Louis University, identified areas in the U.S. with the highest likelihood of Zika transmission. The group found that 507 counties in the southern U.S., along the Atlantic coast, and in southern California were at most risk for exposure and transmission of the Zika virus, which equates to about one third of the population in the contiguous U.S.
Knowing that Zika can be transmitted in two ways — from a mosquito (specifically the Aedes aegypti species) or via sexual transmission — the researchers used an ecological study to quantify the population most at risk with a special focus on women of childbearing years or who are currently pregnant. Dr. Nelson, who was responsible for the study’s method and statistics, and his colleagues reviewed population data, sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates, socioeconomic data, and information on mosquito distribution, among other statistics to determine the populations and areas at highest risk.
With the number of people potentially at risk for Zika infection, the study highlights the importance to public health of prevention and thorough communication and education to those in the high-risk areas. The researchers indicate, “timely strategies to communicate risk, control mosquito populations, and prevent disease transmission are imperative to preventing a large scale Zika epidemic in the United States.”
Read the full study – http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdf/10.2105/AJPH.2017.303670