Epidemiological characteristics and determinants of dengue transmission during epidemic and non-epidemic years in Fortaleza, Brazil: 2011-2015

by Benjamin MacCormack-Gelles, Antonio S. Lima Neto, Geziel S. Sousa, Osmar J. Nascimento, Marcia M. T. Machado, Mary E. Wilson, Marcia C. Castro


After being eliminated during the 1950s, dengue reemerged in Brazil in the 1980s. Since then, incidence of the disease has increased, as serotypes move within and between cities. The co-circulation of multiple serotypes contributes to cycles of epidemic and interepidemic years, and a seasonal pattern of transmission is observed annually. Little is known regarding possible differences in the epidemiology of dengue under epidemic and interepidemic scenarios. This study addresses this gap and aims to assess the epidemiological characteristics and determinants of epidemic and interepidemic dengue transmission, utilizing data from the 5th largest city in Brazil (Fortaleza), at fine spatial and temporal scales.

Methods/Principal findings

Longitudinal models of monthly rates of confirmed dengue cases were used to estimate the differential contribution of contextual factors to dengue transmission in Fortaleza between 2011 and 2015. Models were stratified by annual climatological schedules and periods of interepidemic and epidemic transmission, controlling for social, economic, structural, entomological, and environmental factors. Results revealed distinct seasonal patterns between interepidemic and epidemic years, with persistent transmission after June in interepidemic years. Dengue was strongly associated with violence across strata, and with poverty and irregular garbage collection during periods of low transmission, but not with other indicators of public service provision or structural deprivation. Scrapyards and sites associated with tire storage were linked to incidence differentially between seasons, with the strongest associations during transitional precipitation periods. Hierarchical clustering analysis suggests that the dengue burden concentrates in the southern periphery of the city, particularly during periods of minimal transmission.


Our findings have direct programmatic implications. Vector control operations must be sustained after June even in non-epidemic years. More specifically, scrapyards and sites associated with tires (strongly associated with incidence during periods of minimal transmission), require sustained entomological surveillance, particularly during interepidemic intervals and in the urban periphery. Intersectoral collaborations that address urban violence are critical for facilitating the regular activities of vector control agents.

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