Spatial and temporal patterns of Ross River virus in South East Queensland, Australia: identification of hot spots at the rural-urban interface
Background: Ross River virus (RRV) is responsible for the most common vector-borne disease of humans reported in Australia. The virus circulates in enzootic cycles between multiple species of mosquitoes, wildlife reservoir hosts and humans. Despite regular outbreaks, ongoing morbidity and substantial economic costs, the underlying determinants of epidemics remain unclear. Public health concern about RRV has recently increased due to rising incidence rates in Australian urban centres, along with
... increased circulation in Pacific Island countries. Australia experienced its largest recorded outbreak of 9,544 cases in 2015, with the majority reported from South East Queensland (SEQ). We aimed to provide a detailed analysis of disease trends and explore potential links between disease patterns and transmission pathways of RRV. Methods: We assessed the spatial and temporal distribution of notified RRV cases, and associated epidemiological features in SEQ, from 2001-2016. This included fine-scale analysis of disease patterns across the suburbs of the capital city of Brisbane, and those of 8 adjacent Local Government Areas, and host spot analyses to identify locations with significantly high incidence. Results: The mean annual incidence rate for the region was 41/100,000 with a consistent seasonal peak in cases between February and May. The highest RRV incidence was in adults aged from 30-64 years (mean incidence rate: 59/100,000), and females had higher incidence rates than males (mean incidence rates: 44/100,000 and 34/100,000, respectively). Spatial patterns of disease were heterogeneous between years, and there was a wide distribution of disease across both urban and rural areas of SEQ. Overall, the highest incidence rates were reported from predominantly rural suburbs to the north of Brisbane City, with significant hot spots located in peri-urban suburbs where residential, agricultural and conserved natural land use types intersect. Conclusions: Although RRV is endemic across all of SEQ, transmission is most concentrated in areas where urban and peri-urban environments intersect. The drivers of RRV transmission across rural-urban landscapes should be prioritised for further investigation, including identification of specific vectors and hosts that mediate human spillover.