Association of spring-summer hydrology and meteorology with human West Nile virus infection in West Texas, USA, 2002–2016

Ukawuba, Israel; Shaman, Jeffrey L.

Background: The emergence of West Nile virus (WNV) in the Western Hemisphere has motivated research into the processes contributing to the incidence and persistence of the disease in the region. Meteorology and hydrology are fundamental determinants of vector-borne disease transmission dynamics of a region. The availability of water influences the population dynamics of vector and host, while temperature impacts vector growth rates, feeding habits, and disease transmission potential. Characterization of the temporal pattern of environmental factors influencing WNV risk is crucial to broaden our understanding of local transmission dynamics and to inform efforts of control and surveillance.

Methods: We used hydrologic, meteorological and WNV data from west Texas (2002–2016) to analyze the relationship between environmental conditions and annual human WNV infection. A Bayesian model averaging framework was used to evaluate the association of monthly environmental conditions with WNV infection.

Results: Findings indicate that wet conditions in the spring combined with dry and cool conditions in the summer are associated with increased annual WNV cases. Bayesian multi-model inference reveals monthly means of soil moisture, specific humidity and temperature to be the most important variables among predictors tested. Environmental conditions in March, June, July and August were the leading predictors in the best-fitting models.

Conclusions: The results significantly link soil moisture and temperature in the spring and summer to WNV transmission risk. Wet spring in association with dry and cool summer was the temporal pattern best-describing WNV, regardless of year. Our findings also highlight that soil moisture may be a stronger predictor of annual WNV transmission than rainfall.

Geographic Areas


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Also Published In

Parasites & Vectors

More About This Work

Academic Units
Environmental Health Sciences
Published Here
April 16, 2018


Humidity, Hydrology, Soil moisture, Spring, Summer, Temperature, Texas, West Nile virus