Updated 04:46 PM EDT, Mon, Jun 01, 2020

El Niño Possibly Connected with Zika Virus? [Details]

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El Niño could be blamed for the Zika virus outbreak in the Latin American region.

"Meteorological factors certainly play an important role in determining the global range of the virus-transmitting Aedes (aegypti species of) mosquitoes and how competently they can transmit a virus," said Andrew Monaghan, a research scientist at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, as quoted in a report by CNN.

El Niño is "a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean with a global impact on weather patterns," Live Science wrote. It is caused by waters warming in the Pacific Ocean that causes changes in rainfall patterns and brings warmer temperatures. These weather changes can create conditions that cultivate mosquito populations, which lead to the thriving of the diseases they transmit.

The current El Niño occurrence started in mid-2015 and is on the same level as the 1997-98 episode for the strongest recorded, CNN wrote. The event's repercussions are being experienced by many countries, including the massive flooding that ravaged southern Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The flood that occurred at the end of last year displaced 150,000 people in the affected countries.

The large amounts of fresh, standing floodwater are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes and could have contributed to Zika's rapid spread. The United Nations specifically said that El Niño can cause an "increase in vector-borne diseases including dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus due to increased mosquito vectors," according to the news outlet.

Regions that have drier conditions are not necessarily safe from the disease. Northern Brazil, Guyana, Suriname, and Venezuela are experiencing Zika's local transmission in recent months, even though El Niño brings these countries drier-than-normal weather, CNN wrote. Dry conditions at a time of what should be a wet season attract more people outside for activities, which then lead to greater chances of being bitten by the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry the Zika virus.

El Niño has also caused people in south Brazil to stockpile water, according to CNN's correspondent in Recife. These stockpiles of freshwater are ideal breeding grounds for the mosquitoes, according to Dr. Bill Reisen of the University of California, Irvine.

The disease thrives well in warmer temperatures, the news outlet wrote. The United Nations warned that higher temperatures can "enhance reproduction and transmission" of viruses like Zika.

Reisen noted that under increased temperatures, "there are more mosquitoes, they bite more frequently, and they can transmit the virus earlier in their life cycles," CNN further reported. In addition, warmer temperatures lead to lengthened mosquito seasons, which start earlier and end later during warmer years.

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