Flood frequency is expected to increase across the globe with climate change. Understanding the relationship between flooding and arboviral disease can reduce disease risk and associated costs. South-eastern Australia is dominated by the flood-prone Murray-Darling River system where the incidence of Australia's most common arboviral disease, Ross River virus (RRV), is high. This study aimed to determine the relationship between riverine flooding and RRV disease outbreaks in inland south-eastern Australia, specifically New South Wales (NSW). Each study month from 1991 to 2013, for each of 37 local government areas (LGAs) was assigned 'outbreak/non-outbreak' status based on long-term trimmed-average age-standardized RRV notification rates and 'flood/non-flood' status based on riverine overflow. LGAs were grouped into eight climate zones with the relationship between flood and RRV outbreak modeled using generalized estimating equations. Modeling adjusted for rainfall in the previous 1-3 mo. Spring-summer flooding increased the odds of summer RRV outbreaks in three climate zones before and after adjusting for rainfall 1, 2, and 3 mo prior to the outbreak. Flooding at any time of the year was not predictive of RRV outbreaks in the remaining five climate zones. Predicting RRV disease outbreaks with flood events can assist with more targeted mosquito spraying programs, thereby reducing disease transmission and mosquito resistance.
Keywords: Ross River virus; arboviral; flood; outbreak; riverine.
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