The seasonality of pandemic and non-pandemic influenzas: the roles of solar radiation and vitamin D

Int J Infect Dis. 2010 Dec;14(12):e1099-105. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2010.09.002. Epub 2010 Oct 29.


Objectives: Seasonal variations in ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation cause seasonal variations in vitamin D status. This may influence immune responses and play a role in the seasonality of influenza.

Methods: Pandemic and non-pandemic influenzas in Sweden, Norway, the USA, Singapore, and Japan were studied. Weekly/monthly influenza incidence and death rates were evaluated in view of monthly UVB fluences.

Results: Non-pandemic influenzas mostly occur in the winter season in temperate regions. UVB calculations show that at high latitudes very little, if any, vitamin D is produced in the skin during the winter. Even at 26°N (Okinawa) there is about four times more UVB during the summer than during the winter. In tropical regions there are two minor peaks in vitamin D photosynthesis, and practically no seasonality of influenza. Pandemics may start with a wave in an arbitrary season, while secondary waves often occur the following winter. Thus, it appears that a low vitamin D status may play a significant role in most influenzas.

Conclusions: In temperate latitudes even pandemic influenzas often show a clear seasonality. The data support the hypothesis that high fluences of UVB radiation (vitamin D level), as occur in the summer, act in a protective manner with respect to influenza.

MeSH terms

  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology*
  • Influenza, Human / immunology
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Seasons*
  • Singapore / epidemiology
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Solar Energy*
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vitamin D / metabolism
  • Vitamin D / radiation effects*


  • Vitamin D