Climate change, by its influence on the ecology of vectors might affect the occurrence of vector-borne diseases. This study examines the effects of meteorological factors in Japan on the occurrence of scrub typhus, a mite-borne zoonosis caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi. Using negative binomial regression, we analysed the relationships between meteorological factors (including temperature, rainfall, snowfall) and spring-early summer cases of scrub typhus in Yamagata Prefecture, Japan, during 1984-2014. The average temperature in July and August of the previous year, cumulative rainfall in September of the previous year, snowfall throughout the winter, and maximum depth of snow cover in January and February were positively correlated with the number of scrub typhus cases. By contrast, cumulative rainfall in July of the previous year showed a negative relationship to the number of cases. These associations can be explained by the life-cycle of Leptotrombidium pallidum, a predominant vector of spring-early summer cases of scrub typhus in northern Japan. Our findings show that several meteorological factors are useful to estimate the number of scrub typhus cases before the endemic period. They are applicable to establish an early warning system for scrub typhus in northern Japan.
Keywords: Leptotrombidium pallidum; life-cycle; negative binomial regression; snowfall; temperature.