Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe dehydrating diarrhea among children under 5. Over 80% of the approximate half a million child deaths every year occur in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa alone. Although less explored than cholera as a climate driven and influenced global health problem, recent studies have showed that the disease shown strong seasonality and spatio-temporal variability depending on regional hydroclimatic and local environmental conditions. Understanding the epidemiology of this disease, especially the spatio-temporal incidence patterns with respect to environmental factors is vitally important to allow for identification of “hotspots”, preventative preparations, and vaccination strategies to improve wellbeing of the vulnerable populations. With climate change, spatio-temporal signatures and footprints of the disease are changing along with increasing burden. However, a robust understanding of the relationships between rotavirus epidemiology and hydroclimatic drivers is yet to be developed.
In this study, we evaluate the seasonality and epidemiologic characteristics of rotavirous infection and its spatio-temporal incidence patterns with respect to regional hydroclimatic variables and their extremes in an endemic region in South Asia. Hospital-based surveillance data from different geographic locations allowed us to explore the detailed spatial and temporal characteristics of rotavirus propagation under the influence of climate variables in both coastal and inland areas. The rotavirus transmission patterns show two peaks in a year in the capital city of Dhaka, where winter season (highest in January) shows a high peak and the July-August monsoon season shows a smaller peak. Correlation with climate variables revealed that minimum temperature has strong influence on the winter season outbreak, while rainfall extremes show a strong positive association with the secondary monsoon peak. Spatial analysis also revealed that humidity and soil wetness may influence the timing as drier areas experience earlier outbreaks than wetter areas. Accurate understanding of rotavirus propagation with respect to hydroclimatic and environmental variability can be utilized to establish global surveillance and forecast imminent risk of diarrheal outbreaks in vulnerable regions.