Image: Ashok Prabhakaran via flickr
An EPA-funded study found recently that not only is the West Nile virus more prevalent in low-income neighborhoods, but that economic conditions, including personal income, are the greatest predictor of disease occurrence.
The study, published in PLoS One, used a combination of algorithms and ecological modeling and both environmental and economic variables to predict future prevalence of the virus. Results showed that the economics of an area had a strong association with spread of the virus, with per capita income being the single most important predictor variable.
What's more is that the poor state of the economy had an exacerbating effect: outdated water runoff systems and more abandoned swimming pools in areas with foreclosed homes were associated with increased prevalence of the virus. (Mosquitoes love to use areas with standing water as breeding sites.)
From the results summary for the study:
During the study period, the county experienced a rise in the number of foreclosed homes and neglected pools . This suggests that neglected swimming pools may promote WNV amplification, and may represent a direct link between declining economic conditions and a favorable environment for WNV propagation.
Authors of the study used the results to point out that economic variables need to be more regularly included in efforts to map out disease risk assessment.