, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 191–209 | Cite as

Linking Water Quality to Aedes aegypti and Zika in Flood-Prone Neighborhoods

  • Susan Harrell YeeEmail author
  • Donald A. Yee
  • Rebeca de Jesus Crespo
  • Autumn Oczkowski
  • Fengwei Bai
  • Stephanie Friedman
Original Contribution


The ability of ecosystems to regulate water quality and flood events has been linked to health outcomes, including mosquito-borne illnesses. In the San Juan Bay Estuary watershed of Puerto Rico, habitat alterations and land-use development have disrupted watershed hydrology, exacerbating wastewater discharges and subjecting some neighborhoods to frequent flooding events. In 2016, the mosquito-borne illness Zika became a new cause for concern. We hypothesized that nutrient-enriched flood water could provide pulses of supplemental nutrients to local mosquito populations. We conducted a field study in six neighborhoods adjacent to the estuary to assess whether environmental variability of nutrient inputs could be linked to breeding habitat containers, Aedes aegypti larvae and adults, and the acquisition of Zika virus by adult mosquitoes. The most frequently flooded neighborhood had consistently higher levels of nitrogen in estuary water, leaf detritus, containers, and adult mosquitoes compared to other neighborhoods. Adult body nitrogen was significantly related to both nitrogen content of containers and leaf detritus from the local trapping area. Disseminated Zika concentration in adult Ae. aegypti tended to decrease as body carbon and nitrogen increased. Our study provides preliminary evidence that environmental variability in nutrient inputs can influence viral acquisition by mosquito vectors. This suggests that management actions to reduce flooding and improve water quality should go hand-in-hand with more traditional vector control methods, such as aerial spraying, to help control spread of vector-borne diseases.


Aedes aegypti Nitrogen Carbon Stable isotopes Zika 



We thank Roberto Barrera and Gilberto Felix from the CDC Dengue Branch in Puerto Rico for assistance and access to mosquito traps. We are extremely grateful to Estrella Santiago at Enlace and Evelyn Huertas at EPA Region 2, as well as the numerous homeowners and communities, who helped us obtain access to neighborhoods and locations for setting traps. Alonso Ramirez provided access to laboratory space at the University of Puerto Rico during the time of the field survey. E. Ashley Thompson and Biswas Nepane, at the University of Southern Mississippi, and Candice Lavelle and Emilie Cooper of the US EPA Gulf Ecology Division, assisted with processing mosquito viral data. Emily Santos assisted with nutrient analyses at the US EPA Atlantic Ecology Division. Hunter Deerman, of the University of Southern Mississippi, assisted with field collection. We are grateful for reviews by P. Leisnham and peer reviewers on earlier drafts of this manuscript. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the US Environmental Protection Agency. Any mention of trade names, products, or services does not imply an endorsement by the US Government or the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA does not endorse any commercial products, services, or enterprises.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and its text is not subject to copyright protection in the United States; however, its text may be subject to foreign copyright protection 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan Harrell Yee
    • 1
    Email author
  • Donald A. Yee
    • 2
  • Rebeca de Jesus Crespo
    • 1
  • Autumn Oczkowski
    • 3
  • Fengwei Bai
    • 2
  • Stephanie Friedman
    • 1
  1. 1.Gulf Ecology Division, National Health and Environmental Effects Research LaboratoryU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyGulf BreezeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Southern MississippiHattiesburgUSA
  3. 3.Atlantic Ecology Division, National Health and Environmental Effects Research LaboratoryU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyNarragansettUSA

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