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Defining the Danger

Exploring the likelihood that the United States will see outbreaks of Zika and chikungunya viruses in the near future.
March 1, 2018
A color-coded map of the United States. Most of the north, west, and southwest are dark red, while the west, midwest, and south are bright red.

Much of the United States is suitable for Aedes albopictus mosquitoes to live and reproduce. These mosquitoes transmit Zika virus and chikungunya virus, two unrelated viruses that are increasingly causing disease in the Americas and are consequently being monitored by the disease surveillance community. CREDIT: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The alarm bells that are ringing have to do with the mosquitoes that transmit these viruses to humans.

Many variables affect both whether a person who was exposed to a virus will develop disease and how easily the infection may spread through a community. For mosquito-borne viruses like Zika virus and chikungunya virus, the situation is further complicated by mosquito ecology and behavior. Mathematical epidemiologists at Los Alamos are using the Lab’s blend of resources in biology, ecology, virology, mathematics, remote sensing, computer science, and data analytics to build sophisticated computer models that can give the scientists a good idea about the likelihood of outbreaks in various U.S. cities.