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PLOS Science Wednesday: Hi reddit, we’re Erin, Jameison, and Chris. We published a study in PLOS NTDS that identifies numerous factors propelling the Zika virus outbreak in the Americas – Ask Us Anything!
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Hi Reddit, My name is Erin Mordecai and I am an Assistant Professor of Biology at Stanford University. My research focuses on the complex ways in which global change (including climate, land use, species invasions, etc.) influences infectious disease. I am joined by coauthors Jamieson O’Marr and Chris LeBoa. Jameison is a junior undergraduate majoring in biology at Stanford University, whose research interests involve using ecological methods to study and predict the spread of infectious disease. Chris is an undergraduate human biology major at Stanford University concentrating in disease ecology. His research focuses on using preventative strategies to reduce infectious disease risk. We recently published a review paper titled “Environmental and Social Change Drive the Explosive Emergence of Zika Virus in the Americas” in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. This study was unusual in that it was written as a class project in my Stanford undergraduate seminar course, Bio 2N: Global Change and the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease. We set out to explore all the ways in which global change may have fueled the emergence and spread of Zika virus in the Americas in the last two years. We found evidence for many factors at play, including poor housing and infrastructure, suitable climate, abundant mosquitoes that are well adapted to live and breed near humans, lapsed mosquito control, and global travel. For example, we found that Zika cases shot up in a province in Ecuador following a massive earthquake that destroyed housing and infrastructure. We also found that deforestation and low GDP both correlated with the number of Zika-linked microcephaly cases in Brazil. Because of the high suitability for mosquito transmission throughout much of the Americas (including parts of the southern US), we need to be much more vigilant about vector control and rapid public health responses to new emerging diseases. We will be answering your questions at 1pm ET – Ask Us Anything! Don’t forget to follow Erin on Twitter @morde.