First discovered in rural areas of middle-eastern China in 2009, severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS) is an emerging tick-borne zoonosis affecting hundreds of cases reported in China each year. Using the national surveillance data from 2010 to 2013, we conducted this retrospective epidemiological study and risk assessment of SFTS in China. We found that the incidence of SFTS and its epidemic areas are continuing to grow, but the case fatality rate (CFR) has steadily decreased. SFTS most commonly affected elderly farmers who acquired infection between May and July in middle-eastern China. However, other epidemiological characteristics such as incidence, sex ratio, CFR, and seasonality differ substantially across the affected provinces, which seem to be consistent with local agricultural activities and the seasonal abundance of ticks. Spatial scan statistics detected three hot spots of SFTS that accounted for 69.1% of SFTS cases in China. There was a strong association of SFTS incidence with temporal changes in the climate within the clusters. Multivariate modeling identified climate conditions, elevation, forest coverage, cattle density, and the presence of Haemaphysalis longicornis ticks as independent risk factors in the distribution of SFTS, based on which a predicted risk map of the disease was derived.
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