January 14, 2013
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Model predicts risk for chikungunya outbreak across US

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Researchers from Cornell University and Colorado State University have developed a model that considers the risk for chikungunya virus in the United States.

According to the report in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Aedes albopictus is the main vector for chikungunya virus, and its presence has expanded to 26 states since its introduction in the United States. There is a potential for an epidemic, but there have not been any outbreaks in the United States, despite high numbers of chikungunya fever in travelers.

The researchers developed a model for disease introduction. It includes a climate-based mosquito population dynamics stochastic model and an epidemiological model. The two models identify windows for disease introduction through one individual.

According to the model, the probability of an outbreak in New York peaks at 38% with virus introduction in August. From Aug. 6 to Sept. 11, the peak is more than 30%. There is also a significant chance for an outbreak if the virus is introduced after June 15 up to December.

In Atlanta, the probability of an outbreak was more than 30% from June 6 to Sept. 26. There was no significant probability of outbreak if the virus was introduced from Jan. 12 to April 9. In Miami, however, the chance of a chikungunya outbreak was significant after virus introduction at any time during the year.

“Our results strongly suggest that, in the event of an introduction and establishment of chikungunya virus in the United States, endemic and epidemic regions would emerge initially, mainly defined by environmental factors controlling annual mosquito population cycles,” the researchers wrote. “These regions should be identified in order to plan different intervention measures.”

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.