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Sistema de Información Científica
Red de Revistas Científicas de América Latina y el Caribe, España y Portugal
Revista CENIC Ciencias Biológicas, Vol. 36, No. Especial, 2005
An Influence of Changes of Heliogeophysical
Conditions on Influenza Epidemics
Elchin S. Babayev
Shamakhy Astrophysical Observatory named after N.Tusi (www.shao.az), Azerbaijan National Academy of
Sciences; 10, Istiglaliyyat street, Presidium of Academy, Baku, AZ-1001, the Republic of Azerbaijan; tel.: +(994
50) 213 14 59; fax: +(994 12) 92 56 99; e-mails: elay@shao.ab.az, ebabayev@yahoo.com
Abstract:
For purposes of studying of possible influence of the solar and geomagnetic activity on influenza
diseases and epidemic, the data covering the time period of 1976-2004 is studied for the Absheron Peninsula
area including the capital city Baku (the Republic of Azerbaijan) with several millions of inhabitants. Period,
duration, intensity and seasonal behavior of the influenza epidemic, tendency of its beginning within a solar
cycle are determined. Investigations reveal that influenza epidemic usually begins 2-3 years before and / or 2-3
years after the 11-years sunspot cycle maximum. We suppose that solar activity affects the influenza epidemic
mainly through geomagnetic activity (magnetic storms). The comparative analysis of years of high solar activity
and both periods of originating of epidemics and pandemics on the base of antigenic formulas of influenza
viruses described with the help of characters of structure of a virus (hemagglutinin and neuraminidase) has
revealed definite regularity in the circulation of influenza infections. Forecast method for prophylactic measures
is developed for considered region. Obtained results are interpreted and compared with similar ones.
Keywords:
solar activity, geomagnetic disturbances, influenza, epidemic, pandemic.
1. Introduction
It is well known that the Sun manages all living nature of the Earth and has a practical importance to human
organism. “Space Weather” is determined by the most varied interactions between the Sun and interplanetary
space, and the Earth: Space weather’s changes, namely changes in heliogeophysical conditions, can
negatively affect not only technological, but also ecological and biological systems, including human life and all-
kind of human activities
1-5
.
Expanding research activities in the field of space weather and its effects’ studies have influenced the
Azerbaijani scientific community, and enthusiastic investigations on this subject were initiated several years
ago
6
. Currently, there is a well-established “The Group on Study of Solar-Terrestrial Relations and Space
Weather Effects” in the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS) and led by the author of this paper.
These investigations mainly cover monitoring, analysis and theoretical studies of space weather effects as well
as application of obtained results, namely, space weather influences on the following different engineering-
technological systems both of space-borne and ground-based origin, biological and ecological systems, and
human health
7-13
: scintillation of communication and navigation microwave radio signals, oil production activity,
functioning of oil-gas transportation pipelines, electric power grids, Caspian Sea level, climate, traffic accidents,
beekeeping, virus-epidemic diseases, human brain functional state, cardiovascular diseases, ophthalmologic
diseases, acupunctural indexes, thalassemia, etc. As space weather and its effects study involve wide scientific
topics from solar physics to natural and medical sciences, this group joins efforts of highly skilled scientists and
specialists from different fields of science and technology – astrophysicists, geophysicists, physiologists,
geographers, doctors, engineers, etc. It allows studying and understanding the space weather and its impacts
as an integrated system, from its origins in the Sun, to its hazardous influences in space and on ground-based
man-made systems and natural processes.
It is reliably established that during the periods of high solar and geomagnetic activity, the health condition of
patients diseased by hypertonic disease and atherosclerosis is degraded, there are violations of the functional
condition of a central nervous system, the number of cases of myocardial infarction, cardiovascular crisis and
connected with them fatal cases are sharply increased
14
. The beginning, development and ending of many
such epidemic diseases, as a plague, cholera, typhinia, cerebrospinal meningitis, diphtheria, dysentery etc.,
also rhythmically follow the cyclical activity of the Sun
3,5,15
.
Influenza takes a special place among the epidemic diseases and is considered as a serious disease caused
by viruses that infect the respiratory tract. An influenza and other strong respiratory virus infections concern to
Revista CENIC Ciencias Biológicas, Vol. 36, No. Especial, 2005
number of practically ungovernable infections and till now remain as the most widespread and global illnesses
of the humanity. Despite of a relative well-being epidemiological health during last years, these viruses and
infections, as before, compose 70-90 % of infectious diseases and cause huge social and economic
detriments. Influenza is registered in the world permanently and almost all of flashes of influenza epidemic are
accompanied by increase of death rate, in particular, because of the influenza-caused pneumonia.
An influenza and other strong respiratory virus infections concern to number of ungovernable infections and till
now remain as the most widespread and global illnesses of the humanity. Despite of a relative well-being
epidemiological health during last 8-10 years, these viruses and infections, as before, compose 70-90 % of
infectious diseases and cause huge social and economic detriments. Influenza is registered in the world
permanently and almost all of flashes of influenza epidemic are accompanied by increase of death rate, in
particular, because of the influenza-caused pneumonia.
Though mortality remains as the main problem connected with influenza, economical detriment caused by
influenza for both human being and society as a whole is the important circumstance testifying about necessity
of strife with the influenza. The success of this strife will mainly depend on the well-timed forecast about the
most probable circulation in time of influenza epidemics with purposes to have enough time for conducting of
relevant preventive measures facilitating flow of this very insidious illness in advance.
In this paper a possible influence of changes of the heliogeophysical conditions on the influenza diseases and
epidemic is investigated. For these purposes, alongside with worldwide influenza reports, the relevant data on
influenza diseases covering the Absheron Peninsula (with Baku capital city, approximately more than three
millions of inhabitants) and the time period of 1976-2004 were analyzed and interpreted. Period, duration,
intensity and seasonal behavior of the influenza epidemic, tendency of its beginning within a solar cycle are
studied. Obtained results were compared with other available ones and influenza data from different countries.
2.
Solar- geomagnetic activity changes
and the influenza diseases/ epidemics
As usual, handling of the medical data meets either an objective or subjective difficulties. On the other hand,
this kind of data contain (hides) many factors such as meteorological, environmental, social, economical,
national/traditional and other impacts which must be cleaned from considered data as much as possible. The
empirical data used in our investigations contain a huge material on circulation of influenza diseases in the
Absheron Peninsula for the time period from 1976 to 2004 and include two 11-year’s cycles of solar activity
with maxima and minima. They are collected from research institutes dealing with study of influenza and other
infectious diseases as well as from hospitals, polyclinics, archives, first medical aid stations, etc., and were
subjected to the detailed analysis with direct participation of specialists and consultants. Total number of
patients diseased by influenza for each year and parameters describing the gradual changes in solar and
geomagnetic activity (solar sunspot numbers, solar radio flux at the wavelength 10.7 cm, ultra-violet radiation
fluctuations, geomagnetic indices, etc.) averaged on the same considered years were involved in studies and
were undergone to relevant mathematical analysis. Figures describing results are not provided in this paper but
they show that the minimum of the number of influenza diseases in the considered solar cycle # 21 almost
precisely coincides with the minimum of sunspot numbers around 1986. However, the maximum of influenza
epidemic in 1976-1977 within the first considered solar cycle # 21 appears about 2 years prior to the maximum
of solar activity in 1979-1980, while in the second considered solar cycle # 22 it happens approximately in 3
years (year 1992-1993) after achievement by the Sun of its next maximum activity in 1989.
An interpretation of this fact mainly is based on the correlation picture between sunspot activity and averaged
on solar cycles geomagnetic activity (disturbances). It is well known that during years of maximum solar activity
the number of severe geomagnetic storms increases. But statistical analysis of data on background (major, but
rather less intense) geomagnetic storms per year and solar activity showed that during solar maximum years,
there is typically a double peak in the frequency of geomagnetic storms: during the maximum of sunspot
numbers, the average number of magnetic storms appears minimum
7
. At the declining phase of the solar cycle
the geomagnetic activity is more noticeable. Maximum quantity of geomagnetic storms is marked ahead
(shortly before; about 2 years prior to) or at the sunspot maximum and in about 2-3 years after the maximum of
solar activity (as in the case of influenza epidemics) (Fig.1.).
Revista CENIC Ciencias Biológicas, Vol. 36, No. Especial, 2005
Fig.1
. Solar and geomagnetic activity changes for the considered period.
It is well known in virology that “drift” is a gradual of the hemagglutinin or neuraminidase protein on the surface
of a particular strain of influenza virus that occurs in response to host antibodies in humans who have been
exposed to it. It occurs on an ongoing basis in both type A and type B influenza strains and necessitates
ongoing changes in influenza vaccines. “Shift” is considered as the movement of a type A influenza virus strain
from other species into humans. The novel strain emerges by reassortement with circulating human influenza
strains or by infecting humans directly. Because they flourish in the face of global susceptibility, viruses that
have undergone antigenic shift usually create pandemics; continually happening antigenic changes (drifts) in
the virus genome (chromosome apparatus of nucleus) lead to the antigenic shift with appearance of new
variety of influenza virus which, in turn, causes next epidemic or pandemic of influenza. Mechanism of deep
antigenic changes (shifts) remained obscure yet. Analyzing the known data of virologic researches about
formation of the “drift – variant” strains of influenza viruses in each 2 – 4 years and formation of “shift – variant”
in each 10 – 13 years, it is possible to make a conclusion about possible interconnection of originating of the
new changed strains of influenza viruses with solar and geomagnetic activity; solar activity changes every 11-
years (half of the Hale 22-years solar cycle) while 2-4 years periodicity corresponds to the changes in solar
wind parameters
5
.
Let us consider the circulation of influenza infections using the antigenic formulas of influenza viruses
described with the help of characters of structure of a virus: H – hemagglutinin (superficial active albuminous -
mucoproteins of outer membrane of some viruses), N – neuraminidase (mucinase type ferment): H
sw
1N1
(1918-1928, Spanish)
H0N1 (1928- (?)-1946)
H1N1 (1946-1957)
H2N2 (1957-1968, Asian)
H3N2
(1968-1977, Hong Kong)
H1N1 (1976-1997, Swine), H1N1 (1977, Russian), H1N2 (1988, China), H5N1
(1996-1997, Avian), H3N2 (1998), H1N2 (2001, Global). The years of originating of epidemics and pandemics
conditioned by the influenza “A” virus are marked in the proper brackets.
The comparative analysis of years of solar activity and both periods of originating of epidemics and pandemics
has revealed definite regularity. So, the pandemics of years 1918, 1928, 1946 and year 1968, conditioned by
the influenza “A” virus with the antigenic formula H
sw
1N1 and H3N2, accordingly, coincide with years of high
solar activity with maximums of solar 11-year cycles # 15, 16, 18, 19 and 20 in around 1917, 1928, around
1947, around 1958 and in 1968. It should be noted that in the year 1968 there were discovered the basic
changes (“shift”) of the genome of influenza virus with the antigenic formula H3N2 as compared to the strain
H1N1 for the period of 1946-1957, i.e., were changed both hemagglutinin and neuraminidase. Probably, the
same “shift” changes have taken place for the virus H
sw
1N1 as well. An interpretation of this fact is impossible
because of the lack of virology data till the discovery of influenza virus in 1933. In 1946, the epidemic of
influenza, conditioned by circulation of a virus strain of an influenza with new (as contrasted to year 1928)
antigenic formula H1N1 took place. The maximum of solar activity was observed in mid of 1947. Thus, the
epidemic of year 1946 is also agreed with the supposition about originating of epidemic of influenza 1-3 years
prior to the maximum of solar activity, that is, in the maximum of magnetic storms. At the same time, in 1997-
1998, a wide circulation of the influenza “A” virus with the antigenic formula H3N2 was registered; in particular,
it was strain of influenza virus “A / Sidney / 2000 / H3N2” which had marked epidemic potential and significantly
exceeded epidemic threshold in many regions of the world in 2000. Circulation of this strain coincided with
near-maximum period of the current solar cycle # 23.
Revista CENIC Ciencias Biológicas, Vol. 36, No. Especial, 2005
3. Results
Analysis of the above mentioned results allows concluding that the solar activity influences epidemic of an
influenza not directly, but by means of (through) geomagnetic disturbances (activity). Namely, the maximum
distribution of influenza epidemic corresponds to the maximum of the curve of averaged number of
geomagnetic storms within the 11-year’s cycle of solar activity.
The minimum distribution of an influenza epidemic in the minimum of solar activity, apparently, could be
explained as following. An organism, after illness caused by an influenza (it corresponds to the section between
maximum and minimum of the first considered cycle), gains a natural immunity to the given type of virus for
some years ahead (1-2 years after influenza “A” and about 3 years after influenza “B”). Past-influenza immunity
slowly decays by time, and after the passing of minimum of solar activity (when fluxes of energetic electrons as
well as neutrons have maximum activity!), the gradual growth of new surge of epidemic begins (section
“minimum – maximum” of the next cycle). Apparently, sufficient quantity of ultra-violet (UV) radiation, received
by an organism during maximum activity of the Sun, in the second considered cycle, slows down the tempo of
weakening of immune protection of an organism against the given virus of an influenza, and consequently the
maximum of epidemic of the second surge comes in 2-3 years after maximum activity of the Sun (the section
“maximum – minimum” of the second considered cycle). Then, an organism again gains a natural immunity and
epidemic of influenza, with decaying tempo, goes to the minimum.
Certainly, these discussions are fair in the case of invariability of antigenic structure of the given type of virus
within these periods. In the case of change of antigenic structure of a virus, the new surge can begin after
previous one.
By averaging of empirical data (1975-2004) on each month of the considered year, the seasonal dependence
of the number of diseased by influenza patients is investigated. It is revealed that the maximum of influenza
diseases is reached in February while the minimum - in August. The seasonal factor can move nearer or
remove a flash of epidemic. It should be noted that influenza peaks around February were registered in
seasonal histograms for USA regions in 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 (www.ShadeTreePhysics.com). The
comparatively early peak in seasonal activity in 2003-2004 could be explained by serious impact of violent solar
events (“Halloween” events) in October-November 2003 when the most severe geomagnetic storm of the
current solar cycle # 23 was registered. Investigations have revealed that typical influenza season activity in
Northern Hemisphere starts at February and often after this month.
H1N1 strain of influenza virus shows periodicity of appearing approximately every 30-31 years, which is equal
to three solar cycle length. There is some evidence that every 3 solar cycles comprise together a tendency
(trend) of rise. But this correlation must be investigated carefully. Based on these non-interpreted facts it is
possible to forecast the next formula of influenza around 2007 again as H1N1.
It seems that pandemics take place at the ascending phase of solar activity cycle, just before solar maximum.
In spite of the facts that our statistical data on diseases caused by an influenza encompass only Absheron
Peninsula and two cycles of 11-year's activity of the Sun, there is no separation into types of viruses “A” and
“B” and also data about adult and children separately, which have different immunity-protective systems of an
organism against the affect of space weather, however, on the basis of such preliminary analysis and seasonal
behaviour of influenza diseases, it is possible to draw qualitative picture of phenomenon, and to forecast
approximate time of probable beginning of the next surge of epidemic of an influenza. For this purpose,
forecast method for prophylactic measures is developed for Baku with neighbor regions and Absheron
Peninsula and spread among relevant medical institutions.
For investigation of pandemic distribution of influenza it is necessary to consider at least 5-10 cycles of solar 11
year’s activity and data covering many regions which are located in the different climatic and naturally-
geographical zones. It should be noted that influenza pandemic are always caused only by influenza “A” virus
with recurring in 11-18 years. There are known different types of influenza “A” viruses which were reason of
originating of influenza epidemic and pandemic: H0N1 in 1933, H1N1 in 1946, H2N2 in 1957, H3N2 in 1968
and H1N1 in 1977.
For detailed study of influence of solar and geomagnetic activity on the influenza epidemic and pandemic, a
multi-factorial investigation should be carried out.
4. Acknowledgments
The author is indebted to Prof. Dr. F.E.Sadykhova (Azerbaijan) for her useful discussions and consultations.
Special thanks are going to Ms. L. M.-J. Valentin (Association Aeronautique et Astronautique de France
(AAAF), France) for a great support which made possible the participation of the author at CNIC-2005.
Revista CENIC Ciencias Biológicas, Vol. 36, No. Especial, 2005
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