Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – Low-income residents in Medellin, Colombia who lived near new public transit stations had increased rates of mosquito-transmitted dengue fever, according to a new Cornell University-led study.

The study found that poorer neighborhoods closest to public transit stations had the highest dengue infection rates while equivalent socioeconomic neighborhoods farther from these stations had lower incidence. Zones with greater percentages of people who reported using public transit also had higher numbers of dengue infections.

“Construction of public transportation is one of the most widely recognized methods to reliably improve people’s economic conditions, access to resources and social networks,” said Laura Harrington, a senior author of the paper and professor of entomology. “Our study highlights the necessity of providing adequate and well-targeted dengue surveillance and control concurrently with infrastructure investments, as they are likely to alter disease dynamics and infection risk.” 

Medellin, which has one of the best public transit systems in Latin America, expanded its metro system between 1994 and 2016, with many new stops opening between 2010 and 2016. This is believed to be the first study analyzing geographic data of dengue incidence before and after construction of public transit lines.

The researchers found that in the first two years after a station opened in low-income neighborhoods, dengue incidence spiked significantly.

The reasons behind the correlations between public transit, distance to a metro stop, socioeconomic status and dengue fever rates are unclear and will require more research, but the results point to the need for more public health support in low-income areas near public transit. 

Services to mitigate outbreaks could include access to doctors and health facilities, insecticide spray and public education on how to limit mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus by dumping standing water and putting up screens.

For additional information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.

Cornell University has dedicated television and audio studios available for media interviews.


Journal Link: Scientific Reports