By Sidharth Anand
A recent Zika outbreak in Ecuador, which took place in 2016 has been shown by a new study to be promoted by a more pronounced El Niño phenomenon (2014-2016) and a disastrous earthquake in Manabi, Ecuador in April, 2016. The Zika virus, carried by these mosquitoes causes mild symptoms like rashes and headaches, but can also lead to a variety of symptoms including microcephaly, or smaller head size at birth. Both the earthquake and the pronounced El Nino events came together to increase temperatures and rainfall, while destroying infrastructure throughout the province. This helped bring disease-carrying mosquitoes in closer contact with humans, increasing the outbreak of the disease. El Nino is a weather phenomenon which often plagues equatorial regions of the planet, increasing water temperatures, and thus the temperature on land, while increasing rainfall. As Ecuador got hotter and wetter, mosquitoes had a more suitable breeding ground, allowing the spread of these disease. This was then exacerbated by a natural disaster in the form of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The earthquake destroyed many sanitation facilities, major infrastructure and municipal amenities, including access to drinking water. Thus, water had to be harvested from rainwater in many cases, and was often infested by mosquito larvae, helping the virus spread. The leader of the study, Cecilia Sorensen, from the University of Colorado at Boulder says that natural disasters help create a perfect hotbed for disease. Thus, the combined actions of the El Niño and the earthquake may pose relevance in other areas recently afflicted by a disaster, including Mexico with the recent earthquake and the southern US as well as the hurricanes in the Caribbean. The next steps are to now look for patterns with disasters and create health-oriented recovery plans before the disaster hits.
American Geophysical Union. (2017, October 12). Combination of El Niño and 2016 Ecuador earthquake likely worsened Zika outbreak. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171012200202.htm