US Climate and Health Alliance

The Perfect Storm: Climate Change and Zika Virus Disease


If you were writing a popular novel designed to terrify, you could hardly come up with a better plot device than introducing Zika virus disease. A perfect storm of a vector-borne disease, its kaleidoscopic facets are staggering in number and touch on a multitude of aspects—lack of sanitation and rampant urbanization, reproductive rights, access to prenatal healthcare as well as abortions, government instability, religion, possible sexual transmission, the politics of pesticides, the upcoming summer Olympic games in Brazil, rampant inequality and lack of public health infrastructure, poverty that roots families in place with few or no options, and perhaps one overarching villain: climate change.The rapid spread of the Zika virus is an international public health crisis, and possibly responsible for birth defects including microcephaly, as well as an increase in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rapid-onset muscle weakness caused by the immune system damaging the peripheral nervous system. The mosquito Aedes aegypti—the species that also carries dengue and chikungunya—is the vector, and is found in warm, humid areas in Central and South America, Mexico, and the southeastern United States, among other regions. The numbers growing daily show the sheer breadth of the disease: There could be up to four million cases this year, just eight months after the first case was reported in Brazil. There are 30 countries with active virus transmission. As of February 24, there were 107 confirmed cases of travel-associated Zika virus disease in the United States.

Resource Type
Blog Post
National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO)
Resource URL
March 1, 2016
Organization Type
Health and Human Impact
Vector-borne disease
Health surveillance

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