Changing social contact patterns under tropical weather conditions relevant for the spread of infectious diseases

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Abstract

Weather conditions and social contact patterns provide some clues to understanding year-round influenza epidemics in the tropics. Recent studies suggest that contact patterns may direct influenza transmission in the tropics as critically as the aerosol channel in temperate regions. To examine this argument, we analysed a representative nationwide survey dataset of contact diaries with comprehensive weather data in Taiwan. Methods we used included model-free estimated relative changes in reproduction number, R0; relative changes in the number of contacts; and model-based estimated relative changes in mean contacts using zero-inflated negative binomial regression models. Overall, social contact patterns clearly differ by demographics (such as age groups), personal idiosyncrasies (such as personality and happiness), and social institutions (such as the division of weekdays and weekend days). Further, weather conditions also turn out to be closely linked to contact patterns under various circumstances. Fleeting contacts, for example, tend to diminish when it rains hard on weekdays, while physical contacts also decrease during weekend days with heavy rain. Frequent social contacts on weekdays and under good weather conditions, including high temperature and low absolute humidity, all might facilitate the transmission of infectious diseases in tropical regions.

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