El Nĩo Southern Oscillation and vegetation dynamics as predictors of dengue fever cases in Costa Rica

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77 Scopus citations


Dengue fever (DF) and dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) are growing health concerns throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. This study focuses on Costa Rica, which experienced over 100 000 cases of DF/DHF from 2003 to 2007. We utilized data on sea-surface temperature anomalies related to the El Nĩo Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and two vegetation indices derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) from the Terra satellite to model the influence of climate and vegetation dynamics on DF/DHF cases in Costa Rica. Cross-correlations were calculated to evaluate both positive and negative lag effects on the relationships between independent variables and DF/DHF cases. The model, which utilizes a sinusoid and non-linear least squares to fit case data, was able to explain 83% of the variance in weekly DF/DHF cases when independent variables were shifted backwards in time. When the independent variables were shifted forward in time, consistently with a forecasting approach, the model explained 64% of the variance. Importantly, when five ENSO and two vegetation indices were included, the model reproduced a major DF/DHF epidemic of 2005. The unexplained variance in the model may be due to herd immunity and vector control measures, although information regarding these aspects of the disease system are generally lacking. Our analysis suggests that the model may be used to predict DF/DHF outbreaks as early as 40 weeks in advance and may also provide valuable information on the magnitude of future epidemics. In its current form it may be used to inform national vector control programs and policies regarding control measures; it is the first climate-based dengue model developed for this country and is potentially scalable to the broader region of Latin America and the Caribbean where dramatic increases in DF/DHF incidence and spread have been observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number014011
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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