Map of predicted distribution of Zika virus
Global map of the predicted distribution of Ae. aegypti. The map depicts the probability of occurrence (from 0 blue to 1 red). Source:

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The Zika virus has been infecting humans in Africa and Asia for decades, so most people there are immune.

But in 2013, Zika arrived in South America for the first time. People there had no prior exposure or immunity to the virus. Two years later, when El Niño brought wetter, warmer weather.

Caminade: “The temperature conditions were optimal for mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus over South America.”

That’s Cyril Caminade at the University of Liverpool. He created a mathematical model to study diseases like Zika that are spread by mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes thrive when temperatures are warm and they have access to standing water – like puddles, ponds, or uncovered containers. And these conditions are expected to get worse as the climate warms.

Caminade: “We know that climate’s got a very strong role in the background to set up those optimal conditions.”

Caminade hopes his research will someday provide an advanced warning when conditions are ripe for disease outbreaks.

Mosquito control and personal protection like bed nets, repellant, and full-length clothing can help prevent the spread of disease. So a warning in advance could give communities a chance to prepare.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

Eileen Mignoni is a South Florida-based visual journalist who has been working on stories about science, the environment, and energy for nearly 10 years. In addition to her work at Yale Climate Connections,...