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Epidemiol Infect. 2017 Apr;145(6):1183-1192. doi: 10.1017/S0950268816003034. Epub 2017 Jan 16.

Correlation between infectious disease and soil radiation in Japan: an exploratory study using national sentinel surveillance data.

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Department of Epidemiology,Graduate School of Medicine,Dentistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences,Okayama University,Okayama,Japan.
Department of Human Ecology,Graduate School of Environmental and Life Sciences,Okayama University,Okayama,Japan.
Biomedical Science Association,Tokyo,Japan.


We investigated the relationship between epidemics and soil radiation through an exploratory study using sentinel surveillance data (individuals aged <20 years) during the last three epidemic seasons of influenza and norovirus in Japan. We used a spatial analysis method of a geographical information system (GIS). We mapped the epidemic spreading patterns from sentinel incidence rates. We calculated the average soil radiation [dm (μGy/h)] for each sentinel site using data on uranium, thorium, and potassium oxide in the soil and examined the incidence rate in units of 0·01 μGy/h. The correlations between the incidence rate and the average soil radiation were assessed. Epidemic clusters of influenza and norovirus infections were observed in areas with relatively high radiation exposure. A positive correlation was detected between the average incidence rate and radiation dose, at r = 0·61-0·84 (P < 0·01) for influenza infections and r = 0·61-0·72 (P < 0·01) for norovirus infections. An increase in the incidence rate was found between areas with radiation exposure of 0 < dm < 0·01 and 0·15 ⩽ dm < 0·16, at 1·80 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1·47-2·12] times higher for influenza infection and 2·07 (95% CI 1·53-2·61) times higher for norovirus infection. Our results suggest a potential association between decreased immunity and irradiation because of soil radiation. Further studies on immunity in these epidemic-prone areas are desirable.


Epidemic; geographical information system (GIS); influenza; national sentinel surveillance; norovirus; soil radiation

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