A University of Georgia study has found that New York City’s highly-developed urban environment slows the spread of West Nile Virus. The study could help public health officials plan containment efforts.
West Nile Virus has killed more than 1,200 people since it first emerged in 1999. Birds carry the disease and transmit it to humans through mosquitoes.
Standard research models show that diseases typically travel at steady or increasing speed as they spread. But now experts at UGA say the spread of West Nile slowed down in New York City during outbreaks observed during the study.
Researcher Krisztian Magori says the city’s concentration of buildings and concrete had a remarkably strong impact on the disease’s spread.
“In some cases, it can be an increasing effect," Magori said. "In this particular case, the effect was that the spread of West Nile virus was slowed down by the particular landscape of New York City being highly developed.”
Magori said other large cities such as Atlanta might see a similar impact because they include dense, highly-developed areas. It's unclear whether cities such as Savannah that are smaller and have more vegetation would see a similar decline.
Officials in Savannah's Chatham County say, this year is the worst on record for mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus. The county leads the state in West Nile detection. So far this year, Chatham County has found 67-mosquitoes carrying the virus.
Chatham County so far this year has confirmed one possible case of the virus in humans.