Academic journal article The Science Teacher

El Nino Fueled Zika Outbreak, Study Says

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

El Nino Fueled Zika Outbreak, Study Says

Article excerpt

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have shown that a change in weather patterns, brought on by the "Godzilla" El Nino of 2015, fueled the Zika outbreak, noted for causing dramatic birth defects, in South America.

The findings were revealed using a new epidemiological model that looked at how climate affects the spread of Zika virus by both of its major vectors, the yellow fever mosquito (Aedesaegypti) and the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus).

The model can also be used to predict the risk of future outbreaks and help public health officials tailor mosquito control measures and travel advice.

The model used the worldwide distribution of both vectors as well as temperature-dependent factors, such as mosquito biting rates, mortality rates, and viral development rates within mosquitoes, to predict the effect of climate on virus transmission. It found that in 2015, when the Zika outbreak occurred, the risk of transmission was greatest in South America.

The researchers believe that this was likely due to a combination of El Nino--a naturally occurring phenomenon that sees above-normal temperatures in the Pacific Ocean and causes extreme weather around the world--and climate change, creating conducive conditions for the mosquito vectors.

El Ninos occur every three to seven years in varying intensity, with the 2015 El Nino one of the strongest on record. …

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