The potential effect of the inactivated hantavirus vaccine (IHV) remains controversial; however, it appears to be moderately effective for patients at high risk of hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). This study of the epidemiology of HFRS from 2001 to 2017 aimed to examine those at high risk of HFRS in the Republic of Korea (ROK), particularly in terms of disease distribution according to age.
Raw data of HFRS patients recorded in Korea from 2001 to 2017 were obtained from the Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Patients were divided into three age groups: ≤39, 40–69, and ≥ 70 years. The incidence rate per 100,000 individuals in each age group was calculated using population data. The 12-month year was divided into three-month quarters, and the number and proportion of patients corresponding to each quarter were calculated. The effects of time, sex, and quarter on HFRS incidence were assessed in a Poisson regression analysis.
From 2001 to 2017, 7048 HFRS patients were recorded nationwide. Among these patients, the proportion of patients aged ≥70 years increased gradually from 16.4% in 2001 to 43.9% in 2017. Regarding the quarter-year periods, the fourth quarter contained a significantly higher proportion of patients in the ≥70 years group (69.4%) compared to the other age groups. In the Poisson regression analysis, patients aged ≥70 years had a significantly higher relative risk of HFRS incidence within each quartile compared to those in the other age groups (2.102- and 10.029-fold in the third and fourth quarters, respectively). An analysis of disease incidence revealed a more distinct pattern in seasonal variation among those aged ≥70 years compared with other age groups.
In this study of the incidence of HFRS in the ROK, subjects aged ≥70 years exhibited a gradual increase in incidence and a distinct pattern of seasonal variation. These results may be important to identify individuals in Korea who are at high risk of developing HFRS. In future, active immunization programs will be needed to control HFRS among these high-risk groups in Korea.