Subtropical portions of North America that envelop the Gulf of Mexico are emerging as areas that are highly endemic for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
The ocean basin that comprises the Gulf of Mexico is surrounded by the United States to the north, Mexico to the southwest and Cuba to the southeast. They include both large urban centers such as Houston (6 million), Tampa-St. Petersburg (3 million), Havana (2 million), and Merida, Veracruz, and New Orleans (about 1 million, each), as well as rural populations.
We previously highlighted the unexpectedly high rates of NTDs emerging in the US Gulf States of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida . They include arbovirus infections such as dengue, Chikungunya, and West Nile virus infection; parasitic infections such as Chagas disease, toxocariasis, and trichomoniasis, and selected bacterial infections such as murine typhus and Vibrio vulnificus infections . In the case of the US Gulf Coast, the term “emerging” should be used with caution since there is evidence that many of these NTDs are not new to the region. Instead, the Gulf Coast represents one of the poorest regions of the US, and this extreme poverty, together with environmental degradation and a warm subtropical climate, are the key factors that allow NTDs to flourish. Key additional factors might include the absence of investment in active disease surveillance or intervention, lack of access to healthcare, and low recognition or prioritization by local, state, and federal public health agencies.
Read the full article in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.