Dengue 'hot spots' provide map to chikungunya and Zika outbreaks

By Carol Clark | eScienceCommons | June 4, 2018

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A street scene in Merida, Mexico, a city of about one million in the Yucatan Peninsula where the study was based. Merida had a little over 40,000 reported dengue cases during 2008 to 2015 and nearly half of them were clustered in 27 percent of the city.

Identifying dengue fever “hot spots” can provide a predictive map for outbreaks of chikungunya and Zika — two other viral diseases that, along with dengue, are spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases  published the findings, the first confirmation of the spatial-temporal overlap for outbreaks of the three diseases, led by Emory University.

“We had hypothesized that we would see some overlap between these diseases, but we were surprised at the strength of that overlap,” says  Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec, a disease ecologist in Emory’s Department of Environmental Sciences and lead author of the study. “The results open a window for public health officials to do targeted, proactive interventions for emerging  Aedes-borne diseases. We’ve provided them with a statistical framework in the form of a map to guide their actions.”

The analysis drew from eight years of data from Merida, Mexico, on symptomatic cases. A city of one million located in the Yucatan Peninsula, Merida had about 40,000 reported dengue cases during 2008 to 2015, and nearly half of them were clustered in 27 percent of the city. The neighborhoods comprising these dengue hot spots contained 75 percent of the first chikungunya cases reported during the outbreak of that disease in 2015 and 100 percent of the first Zika cases reported during the Zika outbreak in 2016.

“Currently, most mosquito control efforts are not done until cases of mosquito-borne diseases are detected,” Vazquez-Prokopec says. “But by the time you detect a virus in an area, it has likely already begun to spread beyond that area.”

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