Mosquito-borne disease and climate change in Australia: time for a reality check




Will warming climate increase the risk or prevalence of mosquito-borne disease in Australia, as has been projected in a number of scientific publications and governmental reports? Unfortunately, most of these ‘predictions’ do not adequately consider the current and historical distribution of the vectors and diseases, their local ecology and epidemiology and the impact of societal features and the capacity for public health interventions in Australia. Overall, a strong case can be made that we are unlikely to see significant changes in the distribution of transmission of the exotic pathogens causing malaria and dengue, and while activity of endemic arboviruses such as Murray Valley encephalitis and Ross River viruses may possibly increase in some areas, it is likely to decrease in others. The ecologies of mosquito-borne diseases can be complex and difficult to predict, and any evaluation of potential effects of changes in climate will need a detailed examination of site-specific vector, host and other factors likely to influence the outcomes on human health. Of itself, climate change as currently projected, is not likely to provide great cause for public health concern with mosquito-borne disease in Australia.