Zika Outbreak in US Could Mean High Economic Burden

HealthDay News — An outbreak of Zika virus infection in the United States could be very costly, according to a study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Computer models of outbreaks in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas suggest that even a mild Zika outbreak, with an infection rate of only 0.01%, could lead to more than 7000 infections and $183.4 million in medical costs and lost productivity. More severe outbreaks would incur even higher costs.

The impact of a 1% infection rate could reach $1.2 billion, while a 10% infection rate could cost more than $10.3 billion, the researchers found. 

The states included in the analysis have the highest populations of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito most likely to carry and spread the Zika virus, the study authors noted.

“This is a threat that has not gone away. Zika is still spreading silently and we are just now approaching mosquito season in the United States, which has the potential of significantly increasing the spread,” study leader Bruce Lee, MD, an associate professor in the department of international health at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said in a university news release. “Our model shows it is very likely that preventing an epidemic — or at least finding ways to slow one down — would save money, especially since epidemics like Zika have hidden costs that aren’t always considered.”

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Lee BY, Alfaro-Murillo JA, Parpia AS, Asti L, Wedlock PT, Hotez PJ, Galvani AP. The potential economic burden of Zika in the continental United States. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2017;11:e0005531. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0005531