As mosquito season approaches, a Johns Hopkins University researcher has made new estimates that put the cost of a mild Zika outbreak at more than $183 million and the cost of a more severe one at more than $1.2 billion.
Most people have mild or no obvious effects from the mosquito-borne illness, but Zika infections in pregnant women can result in major birth defects in their babies, including microcephaly that stunts brain growth.
Adults can also suffer from Guillain-Barré syndrome, a nervous system disorder that can lead to temporary paralysis, among other problems. All have costs associated with medical care and loss of productivity.
The new computer model estimates, reported recently in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, were led by Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, an associate professor in the Department of International Health at the Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He centered on five Southeastern states and Texas with the most Zika carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and most likely to have an outbreak.
Lee said the estimates can help planners and policy makers understand the potential costs for spending on prevention. There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika, though efforts to develop a vaccine are underway.
The researchers estimated a mild outbreak would infect 7,000 people and lead to two cases of microcephaly and four cases of Guillain-Barré. At the other end, a major outbreak could cause more than 704,000 infections, 200 cases of microcephaly and 423 cases of Guillain-Barré. Costs, they noted, could be significantly higher with more infections.