Seasonal influenza activity in Hong Kong and its association with meteorological variations

J Med Virol. 2009 Oct;81(10):1797-806. doi: 10.1002/jmv.21551.


Influenza seasons appear consistently in the temperate regions, but are more variable in tropical/subtropical regions. The determinant for such variation remains poorly understood. This study documented the activity of influenza over a 10-year period in Hong Kong; examining its association with changes in temperature and relative humidity. The two types of influenza exhibited different correlations with meteorological variations. Influenza A showed two seasonal peaks occurring respectively in winter/spring and summer months in most years. Influenza B showed a clear winter/spring peak, but its activity during summer months was more variable. Cold and humid conditions were associated with a higher activity of both influenza A and B. In contrast, hot and humid conditions were associated with a higher activity of influenza A, but were associated with only a moderate, less consistent increase in the activity of influenza B. A trend of increase in the magnitude of summer peaks of influenza A, but not influenza B, was observed. A hypothetical 2 degrees C rise in temperature would decrease the proportion of favorable days for influenza A in December-April from 78% to 57%, but an increase from 58% to 71% in May-November; with a similar effect (from 83% to 62%) for influenza B during December-April, but a modest change (from 17% to 18%) during May-November. The presence of two seasonal peaks of influenza annually emphasizes the need to evaluate the duration of protective immunity offered by vaccination. Further study on the effects of climate change and global warming on the activity of influenza is warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Climate
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Influenza A virus / isolation & purification*
  • Influenza B virus / isolation & purification*
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology*
  • Influenza, Human / virology*
  • Seasons*
  • Temperature