A New Worry in Hurricane Matthew's Wake: Zika

Scientists warn that infection rate could rise as standing water attracts mosquitoes
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 10, 2016 7:35 AM CDT
A New Worry in Hurricane Matthew's Wake: Zika
Standing water left behind after Hurricane Matthew could serve as a prime breeding ground for the Zika virus, scientists warn.   (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Hurricane Matthew left more than devastation behind on its rampage from Haiti to North Carolina. Experts are worried the storm created conditions that could unleash the Zika virus from southern Florida up the Atlantic coast, reports McClatchy. Pools of standing water left in the storm's wake make prime breeding ground for mosquitoes, and damage to homes and screens means the insects have an easier time reaching humans. "It knocks a lot of stuff down so you just have a lot more things in which the mosquito can breed," said Philip Stoddard, a biology professor and the mayor of South Miami. "A damaged rain gutter, for instance, now becomes a rain collector. Every little object that blows off a house or even a chair flipped over on a porch becomes a container for mosquitoes to breed."

Most mosquitoes are no match for hurricane-force winds and flooding. Peter Hotez, dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College, told the Atlantic that the storm surge could have a "beneficial effect in terms of washing away mosquito breeding sites." But in the coming days, as the waters recede, offspring from the most hearty of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes (one of the main carriers of Zika) will hatch, Stoddard tells McClatchy. Since July, there have been 141 cases of Zika in southern Florida, reports CNN, but fears that it could spread post-Matthew are well-founded. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, cases of neurological disease from West Nile virus jumped by 50%, per the Atlantic. Still, Matthew's appearance late in the season could mitigate things. "We might not see this effect," Hotez said. (More Zika stories.)

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