High-risk landscapes of Japanese encephalitis virus outbreaks in India converge on wetlands, rain-fed agriculture, wild Ardeidae, and domestic pigs and chickens

Int J Epidemiol. 2022 Oct 13;51(5):1408-1418. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyac050.


Background: Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is a zoonotic mosquito-borne virus that causes a significant burden of disease across Asia, particularly in India, with high mortality in children. JEV circulates in wild ardeid birds and domestic pig reservoirs, both of which generate sufficiently high viraemias to infect vector mosquitoes, which can then subsequently infect humans. The landscapes of these hosts, particularly in the context of anthropogenic ecotones and resulting wildlife-livestock interfaces, are poorly understood and thus significant knowledge gaps in the epidemiology of JEV persist. This study sought to investigate the landscape epidemiology of JEV outbreaks in India over the period 2010-2020 to determine the influence of shared wetland and rain-fed agricultural landscapes and animal hosts on outbreak risk.

Methods: Using surveillance data from India's National Centre for Disease Control Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme, JEV outbreaks were modelled as an inhomogeneous Poisson point process and externally validated against independently sourced data.

Results: Outbreak risk was strongly associated with the habitat suitability of ardeid birds, both pig and chicken density, and the shared landscapes between fragmented rain-fed agriculture and both river and freshwater marsh wetlands.

Conclusion: The results from this work provide the most complete understanding of the landscape epidemiology of JEV in India to date and suggest important One Health priorities for control and prevention across fragmented terrain comprising a wildlife-livestock interface that favours spillover to humans.

Keywords: Japanese encephalitis; Zoonosis; landscape epidemiology; vector-borne disease; wildlife–livestock–human interface.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Animals
  • Chickens
  • Child
  • Disease Outbreaks / veterinary
  • Encephalitis Virus, Japanese*
  • Encephalitis, Japanese* / epidemiology
  • Encephalitis, Japanese* / veterinary
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Livestock
  • Rain
  • Sus scrofa
  • Swine
  • Wetlands