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Zika epidemic peaking in Latin America

Widespread infections to end within two years — but virus will periodically return, simulation suggests

By
2:00pm, July 14, 2016
Zika virus in Latin America

LONG GONE  After the current Zika epidemic in Latin America winds down, the virus might not emerge again in a major outbreak for decades, a new computer simulation estimates.

Zika should soon run its course in Latin America.

Within the next couple of years, the epidemic that has battered the region since 2015 will largely be over, researchers estimate in a paper online July 14 in Science.

“If we’re not past the peak already, we’re very close to it,” says study coauthor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London. After this outbreak winds down, it may be a decade ­— at least — before another large-scale Zika epidemic hits the region.

The new timeline could help vaccine researchers get a jump on future outbreaks, and might make health officials rethink advice to pregnant women trying to avoid Zika-related birth defects. Ferguson’s work also suggests something counterintuitive: Current efforts to kill Zika-carrying mosquitoes might actually make it easier for the virus to reemerge.

“It’s an important and timely

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