The paper proposes a model explaining the spatial variation in incidence of nephropathia epidemica in Europe. We take into account the rodent dynamic features and the replicative dynamics of the virus in animals, high in the acute phase of newly infected animals and low in the subsequent chronic phase. The model revealed that only vole populations with multi-annual fluctuations allow for simultaneously high numbers of infected rodents and high proportions of those rodents in the acute excretion phase during the culminating phase of population build-up. This leads to a brief peak in exceptionally high concentrations of virus in the environment, and thereby, to human exposure. Such a mechanism suggests that a slight ecological disturbance in animal–parasite systems could result in the emergence of human diseases. Thus, the potential risk for public health due to several zoonotic diseases may be greater than previously believed, based solely on the distribution of human cases.
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