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Spatio-temporal epidemiology of human West Nile virus disease in South Dakota.

Abstract

Despite a cold temperate climate and low human population density, the Northern Great Plains has become a persistent hot spot for human West Nile virus (WNV) disease in North America. Understanding the spatial and temporal patterns of WNV can provide insights into the epidemiological and ecological factors that influence disease emergence and persistence. We analyzed the 1,962 cases of human WNV disease that occurred in South Dakota from 2002-2012 to identify the geographic distribution, seasonal cycles, and interannual variability of disease risk. The geographic and seasonal patterns of WNV have changed since the invasion and initial epidemic in 2002-2003, with cases shifting toward the eastern portion of South Dakota and occurring earlier in the transmission season in more recent years. WNV cases were temporally autocorrelated at lags of up to six weeks and early season cumulative case numbers were correlated with seasonal totals, indicating the possibility of using these data for short-term early detection of outbreaks. Epidemiological data are likely to be most effective for early warning of WNV virus outbreaks if they are integrated with entomological surveillance and environmental monitoring to leverage the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of each information source.

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