Abstract Background Acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) differs in its spatio-temporal distribution in Vietnam with the highest incidence seen during the summer months in the northern provinces. AES has multiple aetiologies, and the cause remains unknown in many cases. While vector-borne disease such as Japanese encephalitis and dengue virus and non-vector-borne diseases such as influenza and enterovirus show evidence of seasonality, associations with climate variables and the spatio-temporal distribution in Vietnam differs between these. The aim of this study was therefore to understand the spatio-temporal distribution of, and risk factors for AES in Vietnam to help hypothesise the aetiology. Methods The number of monthly cases per province for AES, meningitis and diseases including dengue fever; influenza-like-illness (ILI); hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD); and Streptococcus suis were obtained from the General Department for Preventive Medicine (GDPM) from 1998–2016. Covariates including climate, normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), elevation, the number of pigs, socio-demographics, JEV vaccination coverage and the number of hospitals were also collected. Spatio-temporal multivariable mixed-effects negative binomial Bayesian models with an outcome of the number of cases of AES, a combination of the covariates and harmonic terms to determine the magnitude of seasonality were developed. Results The national monthly incidence of AES declined by 63.3% over the study period. However, incidence increased in some provinces, particularly in the Northwest region. In northern Vietnam, the incidence peaked in the summer months in contrast to the southern provinces where incidence remained relatively constant throughout the year. The incidence of meningitis, ILI and S. suis infection; temperature, relative humidity with no lag, NDVI at a lag of one month, and the number of pigs per 100,000 population were positively associated with the number of cases of AES in all models in which these covariates were included. Conclusions The positive correlation of AES with temperature and humidity suggest that a number of cases may be due to vector-borne diseases, suggesting a need to focus on vaccination campaigns. However, further surveillance and research are recommended to investigate other possible aetiologies such as S. suis or Orientia tsutsugamushi.
BMC Infectious Diseases
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