2015, Vol.11(1), p.e1004591
Epidemics of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are known to occur in wintertime in temperate countries including the United States, but there is a limited understanding of the importance of climatic drivers in determining the seasonality of RSV. In the United States, RSV activity is highly spatially structured, with seasonal peaks beginning in Florida in November through December and ending in the upper Midwest in February-March, and prolonged disease activity in the southeastern US. Using data on both age-specific hospitalizations and laboratory reports of RSV in the US, and employing a combination of statistical and mechanistic epidemic modeling, we examined the association between environmental variables and state-specific measures of RSV seasonality. Temperature, vapor pressure, precipitation, and potential evapotranspiration (PET) were significantly associated with the timing of RSV activity across states in univariate exploratory analyses. The amplitude and timing of seasonality in the transmission rate was significantly correlated with seasonal fluctuations in PET, and negatively correlated with mean vapor pressure, minimum temperature, and precipitation. States with low mean vapor pressure and the largest seasonal variation in PET tended to experience biennial patterns of RSV activity, with alternating years of “early-big” and “late-small” epidemics. Our model for the transmission dynamics of RSV was able to replicate these biennial transitions at higher amplitudes of seasonality in the transmission rate. This successfully connects environmental drivers to the epidemic dynamics of RSV; however, it does not fully explain why RSV activity begins in Florida, one of the warmest states, when RSV is a winter-seasonal pathogen. Understanding and predicting the seasonality of RSV is essential in determining the optimal timing of immunoprophylaxis. ; Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes annual outbreaks of respiratory disease every winter in temperate climates, which can be severe particularly among infants. In the United States, RSV activity begins each autumn in Florida and appears to spread from the southeast to the northwest. Using data on hospitalizations and laboratory tests for RSV, we show that the timing of epidemics is associated with a variety of climatic factors, including temperature, vapor pressure, precipitation, and potential evapotranspiration (PET). Furthermore, using a dynamic model, we show that seasonal variation in the transmission rate of RSV can be correlated with the amplitude and timing of variation in PET, which is a measure of demand for water from the atmosphere. States with colder, drier weather and a large seasonal swing in PET tended to experience an alternating pattern of “early-big” RSV epidemics one year followed by a “late-small” epidemic the next year, which our model was able to reproduce based on the interaction between susceptible and infectious individuals. However, we cannot fully explain why epidemics begin in Florida. Being able to understand and predict the timing of RSV activity is important for optimizing the delivery of immunoprophylaxis to high-risk individuals.
Research Article ; Biology And Life Sciences ; Medicine And Health Sciences