Background: Schistosomiasis is one of the most devastating tropical diseases in the world. Oncomelania hupensis is the only intermediate host of Schistosoma japonicum, and its growth and development are sensitive to environmental factors. The Three Gorges Dam has substantially altered the water level in the Yangtze River. This study focused on the impact of the flooding time on the occurrence of Oncomelania snails in Hunan Province, China.
Methods: The data regarding Oncomelania snails were collected from the Schistosomiasis Atlas of the People's Republic of China. Air temperature, hours of daylight and relative humidity from 1995 to 2002 were collected from the China Meteorological Data Sharing Service System. The data for rainfall and days inundated with water were collected from the Hunan flood control information system and hydrological stations in Hunan Province. A generalized additive model was used to estimate the impact of these factors on the presence or absence of snails.
Results: The number of days inundated with water in the areas with snails ranged from 56 to 212 days. However, 82 percent of the areas without snails were inundated with water less than 60 days. The lowest air temperature in a year in the areas without snails ranges from -2.88 °C to -2.10 °C, and the range was from -2.88 °C to -2.34 °C for areas with snails. Annual rainfall in the areas with snails ranged from 989 to 1565 mm, and the range was from 1230 mm to 1647 mm for the areas without snails. The results from the generalized additive model showed that the number of days inundated with water, lowest air temperature in a year, annual rainfall, days of daily rainfall greater than 0.1 mm, and hours of daylight were the factors that significantly affect the occurrence of snails in Hunan Province, China.
Conclusions: The number of days inundated with water may be a key factor determining the geographical distribution of Oncomelania snails in Hunan Province and the favorable number of days inundated with water for the survival of snails ranges from about 2 to 7 months.
Keywords: Oncomelania hupensis; Schistosomiasis japonica; Three Gorges Dam; flooding; geographical distribution.