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Mapping the distribution of tick-borne encephalitis in mainland China.

Abstract

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) has become an increasing public health threat in recent years, ranging from Europe, through far-eastern Russia to Japan and northern China. However, the neglect of its expansion and scarce analyses of the dynamics have made the overall disease burden and the risk distribution of the disease being unclear in mainland China. In this study, we described epidemiological characteristics of 2117 reported human TBE cases from 2006 to 2013 in mainland China. About 99% of the cases were reported in forest areas of northeastern China, and 93% of reported infections occurred during May-July. Cases were primarily male (67%), mostly in 30-59 years among all age-gender groups. Farmers (31.6%), domestic workers (20.1%) and forest workers (17.9%) accounted for the majority of the patients, and the proportions of patients from farmers and domestic workers were increasing in recent years. The epidemiological features of TBE differed slightly across the affected regions. The distribution and features of the disease in three main endemic areas of mainland China were also summarized. Using the Boosted Regression Trees (BRT) model, we found that the presence of TBE was significantly associated with a composite meteorological index, altitude, the coverage of broad-leaved forest, the coverage of mixed broadleaf-conifer forest, and the distribution of Ixodes persulcatus (I. persulcatus) ticks. The model-predicted probability of presence of human TBE cases in mainland China was mapped at the county level. The spatial distribution of human TBE in China was largely driven by the distributions of forests and I. persulcatus ticks, altitude, and climate. Enhanced surveillance and intervention for human TBE in the high-risk regions, particularly on the forest areas in north-eastern China, is necessary to prevent human infections.

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