“This research can help us anticipate the timing and location of possible Zika virus outbreaks in certain U.S. cities,” said NCAR scientist Andrew Monaghan, the lead author of the study. “While there is much we still don’t know about the dynamics of Zika virus transmission, understanding where the Aedes aegypti mosquito can survive in the U.S. and how its abundance fluctuates seasonally may help guide mosquito control efforts and public health preparedness.”
“Even if the virus is transmitted here in the continental U.S., a quick response can reduce its impact,” added NCAR scientist Mary Hayden, a medical anthropologist and co-author of the study.
Although the study does not include a specific prediction for this year, the authors note that long-range forecasts for this summer point to a 40-45% chance of warmer-than-average temperatures over most of the continental United States. Monaghan said this could lead to increased suitability for Aedes aegypti in much of the South and East, although above-normal temperatures would be less favorable for the species in the hottest regions of Texas, Arizona, and California.
Monaghan stressed that, even if Zika establishes a toehold in the mainland United States, it is unlikely to spread as widely as in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is partly because a higher percentage of Americans live and work in air-conditioned and largely sealed homes and offices.
The study was published today in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS Currents Outbreaks. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health, NASA, and the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is NCAR’s sponsor. It was co-authored by scientists at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, North Carolina State University, Maricopa County Environmental Services Vector Control Division, University of Arizona, and Durham University.