From the Journals

U.S. Zika epidemic could cost billions, or less



A Zika virus epidemic could cost the United States $183 million … or $680 million … or $2.2 billion, according to a new computational model developed to estimate Zika’s economic impact.

The model’s seeming lack of conviction comes from its options for an attack rate – the percentage of the population infected by the virus. An epidemic with a low attack rate of 0.01% would be expected to result in over 7,000 symptomatic cases and cost $183 million in direct medical costs and losses in productivity, said Bruce Y. Lee, MD, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, and his associates (PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2017 Apr 27;11[4]:e0005531).

Estimated costs of a hypothetical U.S. Zika virus epidemic
A midrange attack rate of 0.5% could produce more than 350,000 infected people and cost $680 million, while a relatively high rate of 2% would lead to over 1.4 million symptomatic infections and cost $2.2 billion. For comparison, the attack rate for the 2013-2014 Zika outbreak in French Polynesia was 66%, and the rate for recent outbreaks of chikungunya, a flavivirus like Zika, in Puerto Rico was 23.5%, they noted.

The investigators based their model on the six states at the highest risk for local Zika emergence: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. The hypothetical epidemic lasts 230 days, which is equivalent to the Zika-related microcephaly outbreak in Brazil in 2015.

The National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the United States Agency for International Development funded the study. The authors declared that no competing interests exist.

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