Expert testifies on Zika forecast for U.S.

A new study offers a best estimate of the potential US range of mosquitoes that could transmit the Zika virus.

Kacey Ernst, one of the study’s coauthors, described the findings during testimony to a US House of Representatives subcommittee in Washington, DC, on May 25.

Kacey Ernst
Kacey Ernst testifies before a US House subcommittee.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is spreading the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean, is expected to increase in numbers across much of the Southern and Eastern US as the weather warms, according to the study published in PLOS Currents Outbreaks.

The study’s results are a step toward providing information to the broader scientific and public health communities on the highest-risk areas for Zika emergence in the US, says Ernst, an associate professor and infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Arizona.

But more research is needed to determine the role of Aedes albopictus, which also is capable of transmitting the virus and has a broader geographic range but does not feed on humans as much as Aedes aegypti does.

Other gaps include the extrinsic incubation period of Zika virus and whether there is vertical transmission from infected Aedes aegypti females to their offspring, which might mean the virus could survive in eggs that would hatch the next year.

Source: University of Arizona

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