Volume 82, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



Within the United States, the majority of human plague cases are reported from New Mexico. We describe climatic factors involved in intra- and inter-annual plague dynamics using animal-based surveillance data from that state. Unlike the clear seasonal pattern observed at lower elevations, cases occur randomly throughout the year at higher elevations. Increasing elevation corresponded with delayed mean time in case presentation. Using local meteorological data (previous year mean annual precipitation, total degrees over 27°C 3 years before and maximum winter temperatures 4 years before) we built a time-series model predicting annual case load that explained 75% of the variance in pet cases between years. Moreover, we found a significant correlation with observed annual human cases and predicted pet cases. Because covariates were time-lagged by at least 1 year, intensity of case loads can be predicted in advance of a plague season. Understanding associations between environmental and meteorological factors can be useful for anticipating future disease trends.


Article metrics loading...

The graphs shown below represent data from March 2017
Loading full text...

Full text loading...



  1. Gage KL, Kosoy MY, , 2005. Natural history of plague: perspectives from more than a century of research. Annu Rev Entomol 50: 505528 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  2. Craven RB, Maupin GO, Beard ML, Quan TJ, Barnes AM, , 1993. Reported cases of human plague infections in the United States, 1970–1991. J Med Entomol 30: 758761 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  3. MMWR, 2006. Human plague—four states, 2006. MMWR 55: 940943 [Google Scholar]
  4. Hull HF, Montes JM, Mann JM, , 1986. Plague masquerading as gastrointestinal illness. West J Med 145: 485487 [Google Scholar]
  5. Eisen RJ, Enscore RE, Biggerstaff BJ, Reynolds PJ, Ettestad P, Brown T, Pape J, Tanda D, Levy CE, Engelthaler DM, Cheek J, Bueno R, Targhetta J, Montenieri JA, Gage KL, , 2007. Human plague in the southwestern United States, 1957–2004: spatial models of elevated risk of human exposure to Yersinia pestis . J Med Entomol 44: 530537 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  6. Barnes AM, , 1982. Surveillance and control of bubonic plague in the United States. Symp Zoo Soc London 50: 237270 [Google Scholar]
  7. Eisen RJ, Bearden SW, Wilder AP, Montenieri JA, Antolin MF, Gage KL, , 2006. Early-phase transmission of Yersinia pestis by unblocked fleas as a mechanism explaining rapidly spreading plague epizootics. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103: 1538015385 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  8. Poland JD, Barnes AM, Steele JH, , 1979. Plague. , ed. CRC Handbook Series in Zoonoses. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Inc., 515559. [Google Scholar]
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006. Prevention of plague: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR 45: 115 [Google Scholar]
  10. Eisen RJ, Reynolds PJ, Ettestad P, Brown T, Enscore RE, Biggerstaff BJ, Cheek J, Bueno R, Targhetta J, Montenieri JA, Gage KL, , 2007. Residence-linked human plague in New Mexico: a habitat-suitability model. Am J Trop Med Hyg 77: 121125 [Google Scholar]
  11. Parmenter RR, Yadav EP, Parmenter CA, Ettestad P, Gage KL, , 1999. Incidence of plague associated with increased winter-spring precipitation in New Mexico. Am J Trop Med Hyg 61: 814821 [Google Scholar]
  12. Enscore RE, Biggerstaff BJ, Brown TL, Fulgham RF, Reynolds PJ, Engelthaler DM, Levy CE, Parmenter RR, Montenieri JA, Cheek JE, Grinnell RK, Ettestad PJ, Gage KL, , 2002. Modeling relationships between climate and the frequency of human plague cases in the southwestern United States, 1960–1997. Am J Trop Med Hyg 66: 186196 [Google Scholar]
  13. Sheppard PR, Comrie AC, Packin GD, Angersbach K, Hughes MK, , 2002. The climate of the US Southwest. Clim Res 21: 219238 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  14. Ben Ari T, Gershunov A, Gage KL, Snall T, Ettestad P, Kausrud KL, Stenseth NC, , 2008. Human plague in the USA: the importance of regional and local climate. Biol Lett 4: 737740 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  15. Ernest SKM, Brown JH, Parmenter RR, , 2000. Rodents, plants, and precipitation: spatial and temporal dynamics of consumers and resources. Oikos 88: 470482 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  16. Parmenter RR, Brantley SL, Brown JH, Crawford CS, Lightfoot DC, Yates TL, West NE, , 1995. Diversity of animal communities on southwestern rangelands: species patterns, habitat relationship and land management. , ed. Biodiversity of Rangelands: Natural Resources and Environmental Issues. Logan, UT: Utah State University, 5071. [Google Scholar]
  17. Kolivras KN, Comrie AC, , 2004. Climate and infectious disease in the southwestern United States. Prog Phys Geogr 28: 387398 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  18. Kaufmann AF, Mann JM, Gardiner TM, Heaton F, Poland JD, Barnes AM, Maupin GO, , 1981. Public health implications of plague in domestic cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 179: 875878 [Google Scholar]
  19. Gage KL, Dennis DT, Orloski KA, Ettestad P, Brown TL, Reynolds PJ, Pape WJ, Fritz CL, Carter LG, Stein JD, , 2000. Cases of cat-associated human plague in the western US, 1977–1998. Clin Infect Dis 30: 893900 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  20. Gould LH, Pape J, Ettestad P, Griffith KS, Mead PS, , 2008. Dog-associated risk factors for human plague. Zoonoses Public Health 55: 448454 [Google Scholar]
  21. Comrie AC, , 2005. Climate factors influencing coccidioidomycosis  seasonality and outbreaks. Environ Health Perspect 113: 688692 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  22. Crist EP, Kauth RJ, , 1986. The tasseled cap de-mystified. Photogramm Eng Remote Sensing 52: 8186 [Google Scholar]
  23. Collinge SK, Johnson WC, Ray C, Matchett R, Grensten J, Cully JF, Gage KL, Kosoy MY, Loye JE, Martin AP, , 2005. Landscape structure and plague occurrence in black-tailed prairie dogs on grasslands of the western USA. Landscape Ecol 20: 941955 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  24. Stapp P, Antolin MF, Ball M, , 2004. Patterns of extinction in prairie dog metapopulations: plague outbreaks follow El Nino events. Front Ecol Environ 2: 235240 [Google Scholar]
  25. Akaike H, , 1974. New look at statistical-model identification. IEEE Trans Automat Contr 19: 716723 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  26. Fielding AH, Bell JF, , 1997. A review of methods for the assessment of prediction errors in conservation presence/absence models. Environ Conserv 24: 3849 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  27. Gage KL, Ostfeld RS, Olson JG, , 1995. Nonviral vector-borne zoonoses associated with mammals in the United States. J Mammal 76: 695715 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  28. Eisen RJ, Gage K, , 2009. Adaptive strategies of Yersinia pestis to persist during inter-epizootic and epizootic periods. Vet Res 40: 114 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  29. Davis DHS, , 1953. Plague in Africa from 1935 to 1949: a survey of wild rodents in African territories. Bull World Health Organ 9: 655700 [Google Scholar]
  30. Davis S, Begon M, De Bruyn L, Ageyev VS, Klassovskiy NL, Pole SB, Viljugrein H, Stenseth NC, Leirs H, , 2004. Predictive thresholds for plague in Kazakhstan. Science 304: 736738 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  31. Davis S, Calvet E, Leirs H, , 2005. Fluctuating rodent populations and risk to humans from rodent-borne zoonoses. Vector-Borne Zoonotic Dis 5: 305314 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  32. Kausrud KL, Viljugrein H, Frigessi A, Begon M, Davis S, Leirs H, Dubyanskiy V, Stenseth NC, , 2007. Climatically driven synchrony of gerbil populations allows large-scale plague outbreaks. Proc Biol Sci 274: 19631969 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  33. Bacot AW, Martin CJ, , 1924. The respective influence of temperture and moisture upon the survival of the rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) away from its host. J Hyg (Lond) 23: 98105 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  34. Ryckman RE, , 1971. Plague vector studies: II: the role of climatic factors in determining seasonal fluctuations of flea species associated with the California ground squirrel. J Med Entomol 8: 541549 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  35. Stenseth NC, Samia NI, Viljugrein H, Kausrud KL, Begon M, Davis S, Leirs H, Dubyanskiy VM, Esper J, Ageyev VS, Klassovskiy NL, Pole SB, Chan KS, , 2006. Plague dynamics are driven by climate variation. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103: 1311013115 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  36. Cavanaugh DC, Williams JE, Traub R, Starcke H, , 1977. Plague: some ecological interrelationships. , eds. International Conference on Fleas. Ashton World, Peterborough, UK: A.A. Balkema. [Google Scholar]
  37. Cavanaugh DC, Marshall JD, , 1972. The influence of climate on the seasonal prevalence of plague in the Republic of Vietnam. J Wildl Dis 8: 8594 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  38. Brooks RJ, , 1917. The influence of saturation deficiency and of temperature on the course of epidemic plague. J Hyg (Lond) 5: 881899 [Google Scholar]
  39. Gage KL, Burkot TR, Eisen RJ, Hayes EB, , 2008. Climate and vectorborne diseases. Am J Prev Med 35: 436450 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  40. Barnes AM, Quan TJ, Beard ML, Maupin GO, , 1988. Plague in American Indians, 1956–1987. MMWR 37: 1116 [Google Scholar]
  41. Cornely JE, Baker RJ, , 1986. Neotoma mexicana. Mammalian Species 262: 17 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  42. Braun JK, Mares MA, , 1989. Neotoma micropus. Mammalian Species 330: 19 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  43. Oaks EC, Young PJ, Kirkland GL, Schmidt DF, , 1987. Spermophilus variegatus. Mammalian Species 272: 18.[Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  44. Belk MC, Smith HD, , 1991. Ammospermophilus leucurus. Mammalian Species 368: 18 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]
  45. Hallett TB, Coulson T, Pilkington JG, Clutton-Brock TH, Pemberton JM, Grenfell BT, , 2004. Why large-scale climate indices seem to predict ecological processes better than local weather. Nature 430: 7175 [Crossref] [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Received : 07 May 2009
  • Accepted : 12 Oct 2009
  • Published online : 05 Jan 2010

Most Cited This Month

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error