Environmental, Political, Cultural Factors Complicate Puerto Rico’s Ability To Control Zika

The Conversation: Why Zika has infected so many people in Puerto Rico
Diana Rojas, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Epidemiolgy at the University of Florida

“…[W]hy is Zika so much worse in Puerto Rico than in the continental U.S.? Mosquito-borne diseases are complex. Environmental, social, political, and cultural factors can influence their transmission. And Puerto Rico, like other parts of the Caribbean and Latin America, has the perfect mix of conditions for a mosquito borne virus to spread widely. … Population growth and internal migration, particularly to unplanned urban areas with poor sanitary conditions, can move more people into areas where Ae. aegypti mosquitoes densities are higher. This is characteristic of Latin America and the Caribbean overall. In Puerto Rico, as in other tropical areas, window and door screens and air conditioning aren’t as common as they are in the continental U.S. … Puerto Rico’s ongoing economic crisis has weakened the island’s health sector, which can lead [to] late detection of outbreaks, delaying control strategies. … It’s possible to reduce mosquito-borne diseases, even in places where the conditions are ideal for mosquitoes like Ae. aegypti to flourish. Getting rid of standing water … eliminates places where female mosquitoes lay their eggs. Installing window screens and mosquito repellent can keep mosquitoes at bay” (10/27).

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