Background: Climate is a major factor in the epidemiology of West Nile virus (WNV), a pathogen increasingly pervasive worldwide. Cases increased during 2018 in Israel, the United States and Europe. Aim: We set to retrospectively understand the spatial and temporal determinants of WNV transmission in Israel, as a case study for the possible effects of climate on virus spread. Methods: We employed a suitability index to WNV, parameterising it with prior knowledge pertaining to a bird reservoir and Culex species, using local time series of temperature and humidity as inputs. The predicted suitability index was compared with confirmed WNV cases in Israel (2016-2018). Results: The suitability index was highly associated with WNV cases in Israel, with correlation coefficients of 0.91 (p value=4 × 10−5), 0.68 (p=0.016) and 0.9 (p=2 × 10−4) in 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively. The fluctuations in the number of WNV cases between the years were explained by higher area under the index curve. A new WNV seasonal mode was identified in the southeast of Israel, along the Great Rift Valley, characterised by two yearly peaks (spring and autumn), distinct from the already known single summer peak in the rest of Israel. Conclusions: By producing a detailed geotemporal estimate of transmission potential and its determinants in Israel, our study promotes a better understanding of WNV epidemiology and has the potential to inform future public health responses. The proposed approach further provides opportunities for retrospective and prospective mechanistic modelling of WNV epidemiology and its associated climatic drivers.
|Published - Nov 2020