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Int J Health Geogr. 2008 May 1;7:19. doi: 10.1186/1476-072X-7-19.

Landscape, demographic, entomological, and climatic associations with human disease incidence of West Nile virus in the state of Iowa, USA.

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  • 1GeoInformatics Training, Research, Education, and Extension Center, Geography Department, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA, USA.



West Nile virus (WNV) emerged as a threat to public and veterinary health in the Midwest United States in 2001 and continues to cause significant morbidity and mortality annually. To investigate biotic and abiotic factors associated with disease incidence, cases of reported human disease caused by West Nile virus (WNV) in the state of Iowa were aggregated by census block groups in Iowa for the years 2002-2006. Spatially explicit data on landscape, demographic, and climatic conditions were collated and analyzed by census block groups. Statistical tests of differences between means and distributions of landscape, demographic, and climatic variables for census block groups with and without WNV disease incidence were carried out. Entomological data from Iowa were considered at the state level to add context to the potential ecological events taking place.


Numerous statistically significant differences were shown in the means and distributions of various landscape and demographic variables for census block groups with and without WNV disease incidence. Census block groups with WNV disease incidence had significantly lower population densities than those without. Landscape variables showing differences included stream density, road density, land cover compositions, presence of irrigation, and presence of animal feeding operations. Statistically significant differences in the annual means of precipitations, dew point, and minimum temperature for both the year of WNV disease incidence and the prior year, were detected in at least one year of the analysis for each parameter. However, the differences were not consistent between years.


The analysis of human WNV disease incidence by census block groups in Iowa demonstrated unique landscape, demographic, and climatic associations. Our results indicate that multiple ecological WNV transmission dynamics are most likely taking place in Iowa. In 2003 and 2006, drier conditions were associated with WNV disease incidence. In a significant novel finding, rural agricultural settings were shown to be strongly associated with human WNV disease incidence in Iowa.

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