Invest in early warning systems: Doctors fear mosquito-borne disease outbreaks in changing Australian climate

Public health specialists from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians have today called on authorities to further invest in an effective early warning system for outbreaks of diseases such as dengue fever and Ross River virus, due to rapidly increasing temperatures.

“The time of predictions is over. Climate change is here, and it is having significant impacts on the health and wellbeing of Australians”, said Dr David Harley, a researcher of mosquito-borne diseases, RACP Fellow and member of the College’s Climate Change and Health Reference Group.

“Our report shows that over the last twenty years, major Australian cities are nearly 1 degree warmer on average. These rising temperatures change patterns of infectious diseases, including mosquito-borne diseases.

“If Australia’s public health system is to deal with increasing outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever or Ross River virus, we need to know about changes in incidence as soon as possible. 

“That’s why we’re calling for further investment in early warning systems, because we must understand the complex interaction between climate and vector-borne diseases and be able to respond to changes in incidence."

The recommendation is part of ‘The MJA-Lancet Countdown’ – a joint initiative between The Medical Journal of Australia, The Lancet, the RACP and the Australia Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) to track progress on health and climate change in Australia and to inform policy makers.

The report also calls for governments to urgently decarbonise Australia’s energy sector, phase out coal-fired electricity generation, and address other impacts on health and wellbeing, such as mental health, respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

The RACP has been advocating for governments to treat Climate Change as a global public health emergency, issuing its most recent Climate Change and Health Position Statement in November 2016. 

The full MJA-Lancet Countdown Report is available here.

The 2016 RACP Climate Change and Health Position Statement is available here.

Contact: Bronte Kerr – 0411 676 269,

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