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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.
Authors' addresses: Heidi E. Brown, Jennifer L. Holmes, Kenneth L. Gage, and Rebecca J. Eisen, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne and Enteric Diseases, Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, Fort Collins, CO, E-mails: HEBrown@cdc.gov, JHolmes@cdc.gov, KGage@cdc.gov, and RJEisen@cdc.gov. Paul Ettestad, Ted Brown, and Elizabeth S. Hatton, Epidemiology and Response Division, New Mexico Department of Health, Santa Fe, NM, E-mails: Paul.Ettestad@state.nm.us, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Elizabeth.Hatton@state.nm.us. Pamela J. Reynolds, Zoonoses Program, New Mexico Department of Health, Santa Fe, NM, E-mail: email@example.com. Gregory E. Glass, Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.