Chikungunya (CHIKV) is a mosquito-borne viral infection that causes rashes, fever and joint symptoms. The virus is endemic to Africa and Asia and its principal vectors are Aedes albopictus and A. aegypti. In this study, researchers take a data-driven, ecological approach to predicting spread of CHIKV by focusing on the 2013 outbreak in the Americas. By compiling daunting amounts of data on airports, travel routes and aircraft passenger capacity, they anticipate CHIKV cases with high confidence in countries dominated by imported cases. Using GBIF-mediated occurrences, they model the ecological niches of the two vector species, and find that vector hotspots matched with initial reports of CHIKV cases. The approach presented in this study can be used to predict future spread of mosquito-borne diseases. CHIKV-positives travellers should be particularly aware of mosquito exposure, if travelling to identified areas of high ecological suitability.
Escobar LE, Qiao H and Peterson AT (2016) Forecasting Chikungunya spread in the Americas via data-driven empirical approaches. Parasites & Vectors. Springer Nature. Available at doi:10.1186/s13071-016-1403-y.