The spatial heterogeneity in the risk of Ross River virus (family Togaviridae, genus Alphavirus, RRV) disease, the most common mosquito-borne disease in Australia, was examined in Redland Shire in southern Queensland, Australia. Disease cases, complaints from residents of intense mosquito biting exposure, and human population data were mapped using a geographic information system. Surface maps of RRV disease age-sex standardized morbidity ratios and mosquito biting complaint morbidity ratios were created. To determine whether there was significant spatial variation in disease and complaint patterns, a spatial scan analysis method was used to test whether the number of cases and complaints was distributed according to underlying population at risk. Several noncontiguous areas in proximity to productive saline water habitats of Aedes vigilax (Skuse), a recognized vector of RRV, had higher than expected numbers of RRV disease cases and complaints. Disease rates in human populations in areas which had high numbers of adult Ae. vigilax in carbon dioxide- and octenol-baited light traps were up to 2.9 times those in areas that rarely had high numbers of mosquitoes. It was estimated that targeted control of adult Ae. vigilax in these high-risk areas could potentially reduce the RRV disease incidence by an average of 13.6%. Spatial correlation was found between RRV disease risk and complaints from residents of mosquito biting. Based on historical patterns of RRV transmission throughout Redland Shire and estimated future human population growth in areas with higher than average RRV disease incidence, it was estimated that RRV incidence rates will increase by 8% between 2001 and 2021. The use of arbitrary administrative areas that ranged in size from 4.6 to 318.3 km2, has the potential to mask any small scale heterogeneity in disease patterns. With the availability of georeferenced data sets and high-resolution imagery, it is becoming more feasible to undertake spatial analyses at relatively small scales.
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Vol. 43 • No. 5