Host outdoor exposure variability affects the transmission and spread of Zika virus: Insights for epidemic control

Marco Ajelli, Imelda K. Moise, Tricia Caroline S.G. Hutchings, Scott C. Brown, Naresh Kumar, Neil F. Johnson, John C. Beier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: Zika virus transmission dynamics in urban environments follow a complex spatiotemporal pattern that appears unpredictable and barely related to high mosquito density areas. In this context, human activity patterns likely have a major role in Zika transmission dynamics. This paper examines the effect of host variability in the amount of time spent outdoors on Zika epidemiology in an urban environment. Methodology/Principal findings: First, we performed a survey on time spent outdoors by residents of Miami-Dade County, Florida. Second, we analyzed both the survey and previously published national data on outdoors time in the U.S. to provide estimates of the distribution of the time spent outdoors. Third, we performed a computational modeling evaluation of Zika transmission dynamics, based on the time spent outdoors by each person. Our analysis reveals a strong heterogeneity of the host population in terms of time spent outdoors–data are well captured by skewed gamma distributions. Our model-based evaluation shows that in a heterogeneous population, Zika would cause a lower number of infections than in a more homogenous host population (up to 4-fold differences), but, at the same time, the epidemic would spread much faster. We estimated that in highly heterogeneous host populations the timing of the implementation of vector control measures is the major factor for limiting the number of Zika infections. Conclusions/Significance: Our findings highlight the need of considering host variability in exposure time for managing mosquito-borne infections and call for the revision of the triggers for vector control strategies, which should integrate mosquito density data and human outdoor activity patterns in specific areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0005851
JournalPLoS neglected tropical diseases
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 14 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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