Over the last decade, major outbreaks of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) have been reported in Asian countries, resulting in thousands of deaths among children. However, less is known regarding the effect of meteorological variables on the incidence of HFMD in children. This study aims at quantifying the relationship between meteorological variables and the incidence of HFMD among children in Guangzhou, China.
The association between weekly HFMD cases in children aged <15 years and meteorological variables in Guangzhou from 2008 to 2011 were analyzed using the generalized additive model (GAM) and time-series method, after controlling for long-term trend and seasonality, holiday effects, influenza period and delayed effects.
Temperature and relative humidity with one week lag were significantly associated with HFMD infection among children. We found that a 1°C increase in temperature led to an increase of 1.86% (95% CI: 0.92, 2.81%) in the weekly number of cases in the 0–14 years age group. A one percent increase in relative humidity may lead to an increase of 1.42% (95% CI: 0.97, 1.87%) in the weekly number of cases in the 0–14 years age group.
This study provides quantitative evidence that the incidence of HFMD in children was associated with high average temperature and high relative humidity. The one-week delay in the effects of temperature and relative humidity on HFMD is consistent with the enterovirus incubation period and the potential time lag between onset of children’s sickness and parental awareness and response.