Using hydrologic conditions to forecast the risk of focal and epidemic arboviral transmission in peninsular Florida.


The accurate forecasting and tracking of arboviral transmission is becoming increasingly critical for the early recognition and management of arboviral epidemics. Meteorological factors, especially rainfall and temperature, drive arboviral epidemics, but monitoring rainfall and temperature alone is not predictive of increased levels of vector-borne disease transmission. In Florida, model simulations of water table depth (WTD) provide a measure of drought, and they have been shown to provide an accurate forecast of arboviral transmission. Here, we tracked WTD in two peninsular Florida regions where focal West Nile virus (family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus, WNV) transmission was reported during 2004 and 2005. We compared the resulting WTD profiles with historical WTD simulations for Indian River County (IRC), FL, where two peninsular Florida St. Louis encephalitis virus epidemics had their epicenters in 1977 and 1990. In both of the regions where focal WNV transmission was reported during 2004 and 2005, the local WTD profiles approached the 1977 and 1990 IRC WTD profiles; however, differences in the local temporal sequence of hydrologic conditions were observed. These differences seem in part to explain why the focal WNV transmission during 2004 and 2005 failed to reach epidemic levels in peninsular Florida. These findings suggest that hydrologic monitoring, specifically WTD, may help determine the geographic extent, timing, and intensity of WNV transmission. We speculate that a more precise sequence of drought and wetting, including a secondary summer drying and wetting cycle, as occurred in IRC during 1977 and 1990, may provide the optimal hydrologic conditions for the expansion of an arbovirus outbreak from focal to epidemic. This study documents that monitoring hydrologic conditions, along with vector, avian amplification host, and virus population data, increases our ability to track and predict significant levels of arboviral transmission.

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