Hurricane Matthew Could Make Zika Problem Worse In Florida

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images.
As if those in the path of Hurricane Matthew didn't already have enough to worry about, Florida residents have been warned that the storm could make the state's Zika problem even worse. Florida is already the epicenter of the Zika virus in the United States. It is the only state that has reported local transmission of the virus, meaning that it is spreading via local mosquito populations, rather than just brought in by those who contracted it elsewhere. Despite announcements from Florida Governor Rick Scott that the virus is under control, new cases continue to be reported. According to The Atlantic, not only does Hurricane Matthew have the potential to complicate current attempts to stop the spread of the virus, post-storm conditions like standing water are literally the ideal breeding ground for the mosquitoes that spread the illness. “So in the first wave of wind, heavy rains, and storm surge—it could even have a beneficial effect in terms of washing away mosquito breeding sites,” Peter Hotez, a pediatrician and the dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College, told The Atlantic, “but then as the waters recede, it could leave residual reservoirs of water in human-made containers that could breed Aedes aegypti.” The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the culprit behind Zika, dengue fever, yellow fever, and other diseases. But standing water is only part of the problem. Inferior housing is also a factor: following large storms, many people live in damaged homes during the recovery period or end up waiting outside for long periods of time during evacuation. The spike in West Nile Cases following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was so substantial — the Centers for Disease Control found a 50 percent increase in cases of the West Nile Virus, despite a decline in the area's population — that scientists are calling for additional research on the link between hurricanes and diseases spread by mosquitoes. Unfortunately, there's no way to know for sure if the storm will lead to more Zika cases. As Hotez told The Atlantic, the fact that it is relatively late in the season for the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses, means that “we might not see this effect." But then again, we might.

More from Body

R29 Original Series