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EPA Supported Research Finds Higher Incidence of West Nile Virus in Low-Income Neighborhoods

Release Date: 11/23/2010
Contact Information: Latisha Petteway (News Media Only) petteway.latisha@epa.gov 202-564-3191 202-564-4355 Dale Kemery (News Media Only) kemery.dale@epa.gov 202-564-7839 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON - Newly published U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-funded research has found that low income neighborhoods appear to be the most susceptible to the West Nile Virus (WNV). The study is the first to use a statistical model to determine links between economic conditions and disease.  West Nile Virus is a mosquito-transmitting disease that first appeared in the U.S. in 1999, causing human illness and death and costing millions of dollars to control. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that up to 100,000 people may be exposed to WNV per year.

“Emerging infectious diseases can have devastating impacts on human health,” said Paul T. 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.”     

The research was led by scientists from the University of California at Los Angeles and the Orange County Vector Control District. Results from the study suggest that lower-income communities experience both higher prevalence of WNV in mosquitoes, and higher incidence of human disease. These results underline the importance and utility of considering economic variables in risk assessments of disease and have assisted the Orange County Vector Control District in planning and focusing its mosquito control efforts.

As a result of this research, 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 as suitable for treatment since this research was completed. The results may also alert healthcare providers to areas of higher WNV incidence, accelerating diagnosis of the disease.

Future research will focus on the biological mechanisms of WNV transmission at identified hotspots, and the effects that neighboring communities might have on the prevalence of WNV in a given area.

More information on the research: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0015437

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