The Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito could spread as far north as New York City this summer if the weather is warmer than average, according to the study. A warmer summer, however, would also make it harder for the mosquito to survive in the hotter, more humid southeastern U.S.
“This research can help us anticipate the timing and location of possible Zika virus outbreaks in certain U.S. cities,” Andrew Monaghan, the lead author of the study, said in a statement. “While there is much we still don’t know about the dynamics of Zika virus transmission, understanding where the Aedes aegypti mosquito can survive in the U.S. and how its abundance fluctuates seasonally may help guide mosquito control efforts and public health preparedness.”
The Zika virus likely won’t spread as prolifically in the U.S. as it has in Latin America and the Caribbean, due to the high amount of Americans living and working behind air-conditioned doors. The study also found that small numbers of the mosquitoes can survive in much of North America during spring and fall when temperatures cool.
Two neurological disorders, the birth defect microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome, are linked to Zika, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
Laboratory studies have confirmed the presence of the Zika virus in the blood, tissue, brains and amniotic fluid of fetuses and babies diagnosed with microcephaly.