The four dengue viruses, the agents of dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever in humans, are transmitted predominantly by the mosquito Aedes aegypti. The abundance and the transmission potential of Ae. aegypti are influenced by temperature and precipitation. While there is strong biological evidence for these effects, empirical studies of the relationship between climate and dengue incidence in human populations are potentially confounded by seasonal covariation and spatial heterogeneity. Using 20 years of data and a statistical approach to control for seasonality, we show a positive and statistically significant association between monthly changes in temperature and precipitation and monthly changes in dengue transmission in Puerto Rico. We also found that the strength of this association varies spatially, that this variation is associated with differences in local climate, and that this relationship is consistent with laboratory studies of the impacts of these factors on vector survival and viral replication. These results suggest the importance of temperature and precipitation in the transmission of dengue viruses and suggest a reason for their spatial heterogeneity. Thus, while dengue transmission may have a general system, its manifestation on a local scale may differ from global expectations.
Dengue viruses are a major health problem throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Because they are transmitted by mosquitoes that are sensitive to changes in rainfall and temperature, transmission intensity may be regulated by weather and climate. Laboratory studies have shown this to be biologically plausible, but studies of transmission in real-life situations have been inconclusive. Here we demonstrate that increased temperature and rainfall are associated with increased dengue transmission in subsequent months across Puerto Rico. We also show that differences in local climate within Puerto Rico can explain local differences observed in the relationship between weather and dengue transmission. This finding is important because it suggests that the determinants of transmission occur on a local level such that although dengue viruses have a basically universal transmission cycle, changes in temperature or rainfall may have diverse local effects.