15 November 2013

Fridays from the Archives: Weather and Surveillance

Friday, November 15, 2013: Weather and Surveillance

Extreme weather events and infectious disease outbreaks have always struck me as being similar; both are highly unpredictable events and outcomes depend on a variety of biological and environmental factors. So, I was excited to see that there may be an interaction between the two when I found Absolute Humidity and Influenza Transmission Dynamics in the ISDS webinar archives.

In this 2010 webinar Dr. Jeffrey Shaman presents his thoughts on how a confluence of meteorological factors can affect the rates of influenza transmission. To set the stage, Dr. Shaman describes an experiment he found through a colleague; results showed that colder temperatures and lower relative humidity favor influenza transmission. He then describes his work in expanding the initial experiment to further explore humidity and temperature effects on influenza.

The meat of the presentation explores two hypotheses. First, that virus-laden aerosols are produced more efficiently at lower absolute (or specific) humidity. The second hypothesis posits that influenza virus survival increases as humidity decreases, which means that that airborne virus is viable longer at a lower humidity.

Perhaps my favorite part of this webinar occurs when Dr. Shaman explores whether or not epidemic influenza onset is associated with changes in humidity in the US. This specific case study of sorts provides real, concrete examples of how weather data may be applicable to public health.

If you are interested in the intersection of meteorology and epidemiology I recommend you set aside 60 minutes to listen to this webinar. A full recording is available here.

This blog post is the third installment of Fridays from the Archives. You can access all posts in the series here.

Written by Becky Zwickl, MPH, ISDS Public Health Analyst (bzwickl@syndromic.org)

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