Volume 83, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



Plague is a vector-borne, highly virulent zoonotic disease caused by the bacterium . It persists in nature through transmission between its hosts (wild rodents) and vectors (fleas). During epizootics, the disease expands and spills over to other host species such as humans living in or close to affected areas. Here, we investigate the effect of large-scale climate variability on the dynamics of human plague in the western United States using a 56-year time series of plague reports (1950–2005). We found that El Niño Southern Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation in combination affect the dynamics of human plague over the western United States. The underlying mechanism could involve changes in precipitation and temperatures that impact both hosts and vectors. It is suggested that snow also may play a key role, possibly through its effects on summer soil moisture, which is known to be instrumental for flea survival and development and sustained growth of vegetation for rodents.


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  • Received : 20 Dec 2009
  • Accepted : 06 May 2010
  • Published online : 07 Sep 2010

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