The Influence of Meteorology on the Spread of Influenza: Survival Analysis of an Equine Influenza (A/H3N8) Outbreak.

04 April 2016

The influences of relative humidity and ambient temperature on the transmission of influenza A viruses have recently been established under controlled laboratory conditions. The interplay of meteorological factors during an actual influenza epidemic is less clear, and research into the contribution of wind to epidemic spread is scarce. By applying geostatistics and survival analysis to data from a large outbreak of equine influenza (A/H3N8), we quantified the association between hazard of infection and air temperature, relative humidity, rainfall, and wind velocity, whilst controlling for premises-level covariates. The pattern of disease spread in space and time was described using extraction mapping and instantaneous hazard curves. Meteorological conditions at each premises location were estimated by kriging daily meteorological data and analysed as time-lagged time-varying predictors using generalised Cox regression. Meteorological covariates time-lagged by three days were strongly associated with hazard of influenza infection, corresponding closely with the incubation period of equine influenza. Hazard of equine influenza infection was higher when relative humidity was 30 km hour−1 from the direction of nearby infected premises were associated with increased hazard of infection. Through combining detailed influenza outbreak and meteorological data, we provide empirical evidence for the underlying environmental mechanisms that influenced the local spread of an outbreak of influenza A. Our analysis supports, and extends, the findings of studies into influenza A transmission conducted under laboratory conditions. The relationships described are of direct importance for managing disease risk during influenza outbreaks in horses, and more generally, advance our understanding of the transmission of influenza A viruses under field conditions.