NASA: These are the cities most threatened by Zika

Warm temperatures, low incomes are associated with increased risk

At least 50 U.S. cities could face a threat from the Zika virus—particularly during warmer months—but those in southern parts of the country have the highest risk, according to new research published in PLOS Currents: Outbreaks.

CDC scientists last month confirmed that the virus causes microcephaly and other severe brain defects in fetuses. There currently is no vaccine or effective treatment for the Zika virus.

CDC advises certain women to delay pregnancy over Zika virus fears

Zika hotspots

Using predictive models, researchers from NASA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research developed a map highlighting areas across the country that could see local transmission of the Zika virus in the coming months. They focused on 50 cities within or near the range of Aedes aegypti, a type of mosquito that can carry the virus.

The researchers analyzed several risk factors in their analysis, including cities':

  • Disease outbreak history;
  • Socioeconomic makeup;
  • Rainfall;
  • Seasonal and annual temperatures; and
  • Travel from Zika-affected areas.

The researchers say that by early summer, all 50 examined cities "exhibit the potential for at least low-to-moderate abundance," while "most eastern cities are suitable for moderate-to-high abundance."

Cities with the highest risk include five cities in Florida—Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee—as well as:

  • Savannah, Georgia;
  • Charleston, South Carolina;
  • Mobile, Alabama; and
  • New Orleans.

Moderate-risk cities include:

  • Houston;
  • Kansas City;
  • New York City;
  • Oklahoma City;
  • Philadelphia; and
  • Washington, D.C.

The map shows higher risk as temperatures rise and rainfall increases. But most cities—with a few exceptions, namely parts of Texas and Florida—have little to no risk of the virus during the winter, the researchers find.

The researchers also note that lower-income areas face higher risks because they are less likely to have air conditioning and window screens, which can help prevent the spread of the virus.

Cory Morin, a NASA postdoctoral program fellow at the Marshall Space Flight Center's Earth Science Office, says the findings are in line with what researchers expected. But Morin says "there were some surprises."

For example, researchers did not initially predict how far north the Aedes aegypti mosquito would spread during the summer.

"This suggests that the mosquito can potentially survive in these locations if introduced during certain seasons, even if it hasn't or can't become fully established," Morin says.

Senate adjourns without acting on Zika emergency funding

In related news, the Senate adjourned for recess on Thursday without acting on President Obama's funding request to combat the Zika virus, Nora Kelly reports for The Atlantic.

In February, President Obama requested $1.9 billion in emergency funds for the effort. The Senate as recently as last month circulated a $1.1 billion supplemental funding measure, but progress has stalled amid opposition from some lawmakers.

For example, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) says Obama's emergency-spending request is a "blank check" and "deficit spending" that "completely lacks any kind of accountability."

Democrats, meanwhile, are criticizing the GOP's inaction. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) says Republicans are "failing" U.S. residents. And Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says, "We shouldn't be taking 10 days off as a dangerous virus threatens this nation. And it is threatening us."  (LaMotte, CNN, 4/29; Szabo, USA Today, 4/29; Kelly, The Atlantic, 4/29; Ferris, The Hill, 4/28)


From Zika virus to avian flu: How can hospitals prepare for public health disasters?

Hospitals must be prepared for myriad disasters that can stress health care systems to the breaking point and disrupt delivery of vital health care services.

The Advisory Board has compiled step-by-step procedures for various threats your facility may encounter—though we hope you'll never need to use them.

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