Seasonality of infectious diseases

Annu Rev Public Health. 2007;28:127-43. doi: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.28.021406.144128.


Seasonality, a periodic surge in disease incidence corresponding to seasons or other calendar periods, characterizes many infectious diseases of public health importance. The recognition of seasonal patterns in infectious disease occurrence dates back at least as far as the Hippocratic era, but mechanisms underlying seasonality of person-to-person transmitted diseases are not well understood. Improved understanding will enhance understanding of host-pathogen interactions and will improve the accuracy of public health surveillance and forecasting systems. Insight into seasonal disease patterns may be gained through the use of autocorrelation methods or construction of periodograms, while seasonal oscillation of infectious diseases can be easily simulated using simple transmission models. Models demonstrate that small seasonal changes in host or pathogen factors may be sufficient to create large seasonal surges in disease incidence, which may be important particularly in the context of global climate change. Seasonality represents a rich area for future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Communicable Diseases / transmission
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Models, Statistical
  • Seasons*
  • Sentinel Surveillance*