Spatiotemporal effects of meteorological conditions on global influenza peaks

Environ Res. 2023 May 23;116171. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2023.116171. Online ahead of print.


Background: Numerous studies have suggested that meteorological conditions such as temperature and absolute humidity are highly indicative of influenza outbreaks. However, the explanatory power of meteorological factors on the seasonal influenza peaks varied widely between countries at different latitudes.

Objectives: We aimed to explore the modification effects of meteorological factors on the seasonal influenza peaks in multi-countries.

Methods: Data on influenza positive rate (IPR) were collected across 57 countries and data on meteorological factors were collected from ECMWF Reanalysis v5 (ERA5). We used linear regression and generalized additive models to investigate the spatiotemporal associations between meteorological conditions and influenza peaks in cold and warm seasons.

Results: Influenza peaks were significantly correlated with months with both lower and higher temperatures. In temperate countries, the average intensity of cold season peaks was stronger than that of warm season peaks. However, the average intensity of warm season peaks was stronfger than of cold season peaks in tropical countries. Temperature and specific humidity had synergistic effects on influenza peaks at different latitudes, stronger in temperate countries (cold season: R2=0.90; warm season: R2=0.84) and weaker in tropical countries (cold season: R2=0.64; warm season: R2=0.03). Furthermore, the effects could be divided into cold-dry and warm-humid modes. The temperature transition threshold between the two modes was 16.5-19.5 °C. During the transition from cold-dry mode to warm-humid mode, the average 2 m specific humidity increased by 2.15 times, illustrating that transporting a large amount of water vapor may compensate for the negative effect of rising temperatures on the spread of the influenza virus.

Conclusion: Differences in the global influenza peaks were related to the synergistic influence of temperature and specific humidity. The global influenza peaks could be divided into cold-dry and warm-humid modes, and specific thresholds of meteorological conditions were needed for the transition of the two modes.

Keywords: Influenza peaks; Meteorological modes; Spatiotemporal effects; Transition threshold.