Zika could be worse this year: USF researchers

Researchers at USF say their research shows the peak transmission temperature for Zika is lower than originally thought, making it a more viable threat for a longer period of time in the Sunshine State.

Dr. Jason Rohr is one of two scientists at the forefront of the new research. He and his partner, Dr. Jeremy Cohen, compiled data on what makes Zika-carrying mosquitos thrive.

Dr. Rohr says their research looked at the reproductive rates of mosquitos that carry Zika, their survival rates across temperatures, and the ability of this mosquitos to transmit the virus.

They found the problematic pests were most active in climates between 79 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

"Unfortunately, that narrow range is many of the temperatures we experience here in Florida," Rohr said.

On average, Rohr believes tropical and subtropical climates like Florida are at high-risk of Zika transmission for nine months a year.

Previously, researchers thought that peak transmission temperature was higher - closer to 90 degrees.

While the hype behind Zika hit a lull over the cooler months, Congressman Charlie Crist says the threat still exists. He was alongside Pinellas Mosquito Control officers Tuesday, vowing to push lawmakers to provide more funding toward mitigation efforts.

"They need help. Please help them. It matters," Crist said.

Rohr believes it matters more this year than ever. He hopes his team's research can help target where Zika could spread.

"I think we're probably going to see more transmission, more cases in upcoming years than we did last year. We really need to be careful to prevent transmission and keep those outbreaks from occurring," Rohr said.

Prime season for the spread of Zika is just around the corner, during the summer's rainy months.