University of Alabama at Birmingham Division of Infectious Diseases professor emeritus David Freedman, M.D., is not concerned about a widespread Zika virus outbreak in the United States. Zika virus is transmitted by a dense population of people and mosquitoes combined with poor garbage and sewage services, as well as standing water.
“The density of mosquitoes in the United States is not what it is in other countries,” said Freedman, a member of the World Health Organization Emergency Committee on Zika virus. “In order to sustain an epidemic, a large population of mosquitoes that are close together with a dense population of people is needed for Zika virus to transmit more efficiently.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emergency Operation Center is on the highest level of alert in regards to travelers and Zika virus, which is precautionary due to the warmer, moist weather, which leads to a higher likelihood of mosquito breeding. Travelers are urged to take precautions when returning to the United States, such as wearing insect repellent for three weeks after returning from countries with Zika transmission. It is important for people to act now to decrease the likelihood of local transmission by cleaning up mosquito breeding grounds, such as trash and standing water.
The United States does not have the population density and mosquito density needed for the Zika virus to transmit proficiently.
“The concern for a widespread mosquito outbreak in the U.S. is not high,” Freedman said. “There could be local outbreaks in smaller communities and neighborhoods, but these outbreaks will dissipate quickly.”