The transmission of haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) is influenced by climatic, reservoir and environmental variables. The epidemiology of the disease was studied over a 6-year period in Changsha. Variables relating to climate, environment, rodent host distribution and disease occurrence were collected monthly and analysed using a time-series adjusted Poisson regression model. It was found that the density of the rodent host and multivariate El Niño Southern Oscillation index had the greatest effect on the transmission of HFRS with lags of 2–6 months. However, a number of climatic and environmental factors played important roles in affecting the density and transmission potential of the rodent host population. It was concluded that the measurement of a number of these variables could be used in disease surveillance to give useful advance warning of potential disease epidemics.