From: American Geophysical Union
Published October 12, 2017 12:20 PM

Combination of El Niño and 2016 Ecuador Earthquake Likely Worsened Zika Outbreak

A Zika virus outbreak in coastal Ecuador in 2016 was likely worsened by a strong El Niño and a magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck the region in April, according to a new study.

new research commentary suggests the earthquake left more people exposed to disease-carrying mosquitos, and climate variability associated with the 2014-2016 El Niño event created more favorable mosquito breeding grounds. Warmer temperatures and increased rainfall, combined with destruction of the region’s infrastructure and a population influx into large cities, likely caused the number of Zika cases to increase 12-fold in just three months, according to the study’s authors. The research was accepted for publication in GeoHealth, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Zika was first observed in Africa in the 1950s and recently spread to South America and Southeast Asia. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and usually causes a mild illness with symptoms such as headaches, rash and eye infections. Zika virus infection in pregnant mothers can result in a variety of birth defects. As of September 2017, approximately 6,811 suspected and confirmed cases of Zika have occurred in Ecuador, according to a World Health Organization report.

El Niño is the warm phase of a regular climate pattern that occurs in the Pacific Ocean. It brings warmer air temperatures and higher rainfall levels to the west coast of South America. Previous research established a link between the 2014-2016 El Niño and the spread of Zika in South America, but the new study goes further and examines the interaction between these two events and the 2016 earthquake.

Read more at American Geophysical Union

Image: The lack of reliable access to water led people to store water around their home, increasing the number of places for mosquitoes (especially Aedes aegypti) to reproduce. (Credit: Walking Palms Global Initiative)

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