Effect of voluntary human mobility restrictions on vector-borne diseases during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan: A descriptive epidemiological study using a national database (2016 to 2021)

PLoS One. 2023 May 25;18(5):e0285107. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0285107. eCollection 2023.


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic not only encouraged people to practice good hygiene but also caused behavioral inhibitions and resulted reduction in both endemic and imported infectious diseases. However, the changing patterns of vector-borne diseases under human mobility restrictions remain unclear. Hence, we aimed to investigate the impact of transborder and local mobility restrictions on vector-borne diseases through a descriptive epidemiological study. The analysis was conducted using data from the National Epidemiological Surveillance of Infectious Diseases system in Japan. We defined the pre-pandemic period as the period between the 1st week of 2016 to the 52nd week of 2019 and defined the pandemic period as from the 1st week of 2020 to the 52nd week of 2021, with the assumption that human mobility was limited throughout the pandemic period. This study addressed 24 diseases among notifiable vector borne diseases. Datasets were obtained from weekly reports from the National Epidemiological Surveillance of Infectious Diseases, and the incidence of each vector-borne disease was examined. Interrupted time series analysis was conducted on the epidemic curves for the two periods. Between the pre- and post-pandemic periods, the incidence of dengue fever and malaria significantly decreased, which may be related to limited human transboundary mobility (p = 0.003/0.002). The incidence of severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome, scrub typhus, and Japanese spotted fever did not show changes between the two periods or no association with human mobility. This study suggests that behavioral control may reduce the incidence of new mosquito-borne diseases from endemic areas but may not affect tick-borne disease epidemics within an endemic area.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Communicable Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Malaria* / epidemiology
  • Pandemics

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.