Repeatability and timing of tropical influenza epidemics.
Servadio JL., Thai PQ., Choisy M., Boni MF.
Much of the world experiences influenza in yearly recurring seasons, particularly in temperate areas. These patterns can be considered repeatable if they occur predictably and consistently at the same time of year. In tropical areas, including southeast Asia, timing of influenza epidemics is less consistent, leading to a lack of consensus regarding whether influenza is repeatable. This study aimed to assess repeatability of influenza in Vietnam, with repeatability defined as seasonality that occurs at a consistent time of year with low variation. We developed a mathematical model incorporating parameters to represent periods of increased transmission and then fitted the model to data collected from sentinel hospitals throughout Vietnam as well as four temperate locations. We fitted the model for individual (sub)types of influenza as well as all combined influenza throughout northern, central, and southern Vietnam. Repeatability was evaluated through the variance of the timings of peak transmission. Model fits from Vietnam show high variance (sd = 64-179 days) in peak transmission timing, with peaks occurring at irregular intervals and throughout different times of year. Fits from temperate locations showed regular, annual epidemics in winter months, with low variance in peak timings (sd = 32-57 days). This suggests that influenza patterns are not repeatable or seasonal in Vietnam. Influenza prevention in Vietnam therefore cannot rely on anticipation of regularly occurring outbreaks.