Southern Europe vulnerable to Zika virus this summer: Study

Rocklov's team used a temperature dependent computer model to predict Zika virus infection risks for Europe.

London: An analysis of temperatures, vectorial capacity and other factors like air traveller flows suggests parts of Southern Europe would be vulnerable to Zika outbreaks between June and August.

"We know warm climates create the kind of conditions suitable for mosquito-borne illnesses to spread," said study co-author Joacim Rocklov of the Umea University in Sweden.

"The presence of established Aedes mosquito populations, the warmer climate and the coinciding peak flow of air travellers into Europe, is a triage making Southern Europe fertile ground for Zika," Rocklov added.

Rocklov's team used a temperature dependent computer model to predict Zika virus infection risks for Europe.

In the analysis, published recently in the journal EBioMedicine, the researchers overlaid data on monthly flows of airline travellers arriving in European cities from Zika-affected areas. 

They also used data on month-by-month estimates of virus infection reproduction capabilities of Aedes-mosquito populations in Europe and human population data within the areas where mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus could be possible.

The researchers estimated the risk of mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus to peak between June and August in parts of Southern Europe. 

The peak flow of air travellers from regions of the Americas affected by the Zika virus coincides with the peak in the Aedes-mosquitoes capacity to transmit the virus.

The findings could help European public health officials to identify locations and times where the risk for Zika is heightened.

The risk assessment assumes that European Aedes-mosquitoes have the same potential to spread the Zika virus as their South-, Middle-and North American counterparts.