Dengue Fever Trends and Climate Change in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 11:05 AM
Climate change has important implications for public health. We developed and tested the hypothesis that conditions for dengue fever transmission in San Juan (Puerto Rico, USA) are becoming favorable as a result of meteorological drivers being modified with climate change. Sea level pressure, mean sea level (MSL), wind, sea surface temperature (SST), air surface temperature (AST), rainfall, and confirmed dengue cases were variables examined over the past 30 years, or longer for some variables. Statistical tools used included Principal Component Analysis, Pearson correlation coefficient, Mann-Kendall trend tests, and logistic regressions. Results show that dry days are increasing and that wet days are decreasing. MSL is steadily increasing, which increases the risk of dengue cases along the coast, as the perimeter of the San Juan Bay estuary expands and the shoreline moves inland. Warming is evident in both SST and AST. Maximum and minimum air surface temperature extremes have also increased. Incidence of dengue is accelerating along with environmental change. For example, between 2000-2011, dengue transmission increased by a factor of 3.4 (95% CI: 1.9-6.1) for each 1ºC increase in SST. Between 2007 and 2011, this risk factor increased to 5.2 (95% CI: 1.9-13.9) for every 1ºC increase in SST. An important but difficult to examine problem is how social and economic factors affect such dengue fever transmission rates in light of environmental change. A concern is that the patterns observed in San Juan are representative of potential incidence of dengue virus in other parts of the island of Puerto Rico and in other Caribbean nations. These results help understand patterns of disease spreading, and allow public health officials to evaluate scenarios and interventions intended to mitigate the impacts of climate change.