Scientists use weather to predict West Nile outbreaks

Scientists predict West Nile outbreaks | Courtesy of
Scientists may be able to predict outbreaks of West Nile virus thanks to new research that has found correlations between the occurrence of virus and weather patterns within the United States.

The study, conducted by researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows potential correlations between higher than average temperatures in the preceding year and the number of West Nile virus cases.

This correlation may be the result of breeding habitats changing because of the weather, which may also impact bird populations, as certain birds infected with West Nile transmit the virus to mosquitoes. These variables impact the number of Culex mosquitoes, which are the specific species of mosquito that carry West Nile.

Another correlation is between the amount of rainfall and the number of West Nile virus cases, but this correlation varies from region to region.

"We've shown that it may be possible to build a system to forecast the risk of West Nile virus disease several weeks or months in advance, before the disease begins to peak in summer," Micah Hahn, lead author and a scientist with both NCAR and CDC, said. "Having advance warning can help public health agencies plan and take additional steps to protect the public."

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