Rocky Mountain spotted fever in Georgia, 1961-75: analysis of social and environmental factors affecting occurrence.
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Rocky Mountain spotted fever in Georgia, 1961-75: analysis of social and environmental factors affecting occurrence.

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    For the period of 1961 through 1975, 10 geographic and sociologic variables in each of the 159 counties of Georgia were analyzed to determine how they were correlated with the occurrence of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF). Combinations of variables were transformed into a smaller number of factors using principal-component analysis. Based upon the relative values of these factors, geographic areas of similarity were delineated by cluster analysis. It was found by use of these analyses that the counties of the State formed four similarity clusters, which we called south, central, lower north and upper north. When the incidence of RMSF was subsequently calculated for each of these regions of similarity, the regions had differing RMSF incidence; low in the south and upper north, moderate in the central, and high in the lower north. The four similarity clusters agreed closely with the incidence of RMSF when both were plotted on a map. Thus, when analyzed simultaneously, the 10 variables selected could be used to predict the occurrence of RMSF. The most important variables were those of climate and geography. Of secondary, but still major importance, were the changes over the 15-year period in variables associated with humans and their environmental alterations. Detailed examination of these factors has permitted quantitative evaluation of the simultaneous impacts of the geographic and sociologic variables on the occurrence of RMSF in Georgia. These analyses could be updated to reflect changes in the relevant variables and tested as a means of identifying new high risk areas for RMSF in the State. More generally, this method might be adapted to clarify our understanding of the relative importance of individual variables in the ecology of other diseases or environmental health problems.
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