Chances seen rising for chikungunya outbreaks in NYC, Atlanta, Miami

December 17, 2012

Global travel and climate warming could be creating the right conditions for outbreaks of a new virus in this country, according to a new Cornell University computer model.

The model predicts that outbreaks of chikungunya, a painful virus transported by travelers and spread by the invasive , could occur in 2013 in New York City during August and September, in Atlanta from June through September, and year-round in Miami. The probability of a disease outbreak is correlated with temperature, as warmer weather allows the Asian tiger mosquito to breed faster and grow in numbers, according to the study published in the November issue of .

According to the simulation, there is a high probability of a chikungunya outbreak if a single infected person arrives in New York in July or August and is bitten by an Asian tiger mosquito. The risks are the same, but with wider time frames, for transmission in Atlanta and Miami, according to the paper.

Asian tiger mosquitoes were introduced to the United States in Texas in the 1980s; they are established up the East Coast into New Jersey and are rising in numbers in New York City. The aggressive mosquito outcompetes local varieties and transmits more than 20 pathogens, including chikungunya and dengue, said Laura Harrington, associate professor of entomology and the study's senior author.

"The virus is moving in people, and resident mosquito populations are picking it up," Harrington said.

The model estimates that with typical regional temperatures, a chikungunya outbreak in New York would infect about one in 5,000 people, said Diego Ruiz-Moreno, a postdoctoral associate and the paper's lead author

"However, this number would increase drastically as temperatures rise due to ," Ruiz-Moreno said.

Chikungunya symptoms include a fever, severe joint pain, achiness, headache, nausea and fatigue, as well as "debilitating and prolonged" pain in the small joints of the hands and feet, according to the paper. The virus originated in Central Africa and is endemic in Southeast Asia.

Since no chikungunya vaccine exists, U.S. residents can help prevent an outbreak by removing standing water, wearing long sleeves and repellent during the day when the mosquitoes feed, and knowing the risk and symptoms when traveling, Harrington said.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Experimental MERS vaccine shows promise in animal studies

July 28, 2015

A two-step regimen of experimental vaccines against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) prompted immune responses in mice and rhesus macaques, report National Institutes of Health scientists who designed the vaccines. ...

Can social isolation fuel epidemics?

July 21, 2015

Conventional wisdom has it that the more people stay within their own social groups and avoid others, the less likely it is small disease outbreaks turn into full-blown epidemics. But the conventional wisdom is wrong, according ...

Lack of knowledge on animal disease leaves humans at risk

July 20, 2015

Researchers from the University of Sydney have painted the most detailed picture to date of major infectious diseases shared between wildlife and livestock, and found a huge gap in knowledge about diseases which could spread ...

IBD genetically similar in Europeans and non-Europeans

July 20, 2015

The first genetic study of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to include individuals from diverse populations has shown that the regions of the genome underlying the disease are consistent around the world. This study, conducted ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.