Background: In the summer of 2010, Europe experienced outbreaks of West Nile Fever (WNF) in humans, which was preceded by hot spells. The objective of this study was to identify potential drivers of these outbreaks, such as spring and summer temperatures, relative humidity (RH), and precipitation. Methods: Pearson and lag correlations, binary and multinomial logistic regressions were used to assess the relationship between the climatic parameters and these outbreaks. Results: For human morbidity, significant (<0.05) positive correlations were observed between a number of WNF cases and temperature, with a geographic latitude gradient: northern ("colder") countries displayed strong correlations with a lag of up to four weeks, in contrast to southern ("warmer") countries, where the response was immediate. The correlations with RH were weaker, while the association with precipitation was not consistent. Horse morbidity started three weeks later than in humans where integrated surveillance was conducted, and no significant associations with temperature or RH were found for lags of 0 to 4 weeks. Conclusions: Significant temperature deviations during summer months might be considered environmental precursors of WNF outbreaks in humans, particularly at more northern latitudes. These insights can guide vector abatement strategies by health practitioners in areas at risk for persistent transmission cycles.
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