THURSDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthDay News) -- It's possible that a serious mosquito-borne virus -- with no known vaccine or treatment -- could migrate from Central Africa and Southeast Asia to the United States within a year, new research suggests.
The chances of a U.S. outbreak of the Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) varies by season and geography, with those regions typified by longer stretches of warm weather facing longer periods of high risk, according to the researchers' new computer model.
"The only way for this disease to be transmitted is if a mosquito bites an infected human and a few days after that it bites a healthy individual, transmitting the virus," said study lead author Diego Ruiz-Moreno, a postdoctoral associate in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. "The repetition of this sequence of events can lead to a disease outbreak."
And that, Ruiz-Moreno said, is where weather comes into the picture, with computer simulations revealing that the risk of an outbreak rises when temperatures, and therefore mosquito populations, rise.
The study analyzed possible outbreak scenarios in three U.S. locales.
In 2013, the New York region is set to face its highest risk for a CHIKV outbreak during the warm months of August and September, the analysis suggests. By contrast, Atlanta's highest-risk period was identified as longer, beginning in June and running through September. Miami's consistent warm weather means the region faces a higher risk all year.
"Warmer weather increases the length of the period of high risk," Ruiz-Moreno said. "This is particularly worrisome if we think of the effects of climate change over [average] temperatures in the near future."
Ruiz-Moreno discussed his team's research -- funded in part by the U.S. National Institute for Food and Agriculture -- in a recent issue of the journal PLoS Negl
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