A new research study suggests that low income neighborhoods have a higher incidence of West Nile Virus (WNV), a mosquito-transmitting disease that first appeared in the United States in 1999.
The higher prevalence may be attributed to variations in property upkeep, microhabitat conditions conducive to viral amplification in both vectors and hosts, host community composition and human behavioral responses related to differences in education or political participation, according to study’s researchers from the Orange County Vector Control District and the University of California at Los Angeles.
The study is the first to use a statistical model to determine links between economic conditions and disease, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which funded the research.
“Emerging infectious diseases can have devastating impacts on human health,” said Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “The results of this research emphasize the need to investigate economic factors in disease transmission and underscore our efforts to prevent infectious disease by increasing protection for high-risk communities.”
Armed with the study results, vector control agencies are now increasing their focus on identifying abandoned swimming pools and standing water sources, including storm and waste water drainage infrastructure. An additional 1,200 abandoned swimming pools have been identified in Orange County, Calif., as suitable for treatment since the research was completed, according to the EPA.
The results may also alert health care providers to areas of higher WNV incidence, accelerating diagnosis of the disease, the EPA noted.
Future research will focus on the biological mechanisms of WNV transmission at identified hotspots, and the effects neighboring communities might have on the prevalence of WNV in a given area.