Spatial and temporal analysis of Barmah Forest virus disease in Queensland, Australia

Naish, Suchithra (2012) Spatial and temporal analysis of Barmah Forest virus disease in Queensland, Australia. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


Barmah Forest virus (BFV) disease is one of the most widespread mosquito-borne diseases in Australia. The number of outbreaks and the incidence rate of BFV in Australia have attracted growing concerns about the spatio-temporal complexity and underlying risk factors of BFV disease. A large number of notifications has been recorded continuously in Queensland since 1992. Yet, little is known about the spatial and temporal characteristics of the disease. I aim to use notification data to better understand the effects of climatic, demographic, socio-economic and ecological risk factors on the spatial epidemiology of BFV disease transmission, develop predictive risk models and forecast future disease risks under climate change scenarios.

Computerised data files of daily notifications of BFV disease and climatic variables in Queensland during 1992-2008 were obtained from Queensland Health and Australian Bureau of Meteorology, respectively. Projections on climate data for years 2025, 2050 and 2100 were obtained from Council of Scientific Industrial Research Organisation. Data on socio-economic, demographic and ecological factors were also obtained from relevant government departments as follows: 1) socio-economic and demographic data from Australian Bureau of Statistics; 2) wetlands data from Department of Environment and Resource Management and 3) tidal readings from Queensland Department of Transport and Main roads.

Disease notifications were geocoded and spatial and temporal patterns of disease were investigated using geostatistics. Visualisation of BFV disease incidence rates through mapping reveals the presence of substantial spatio-temporal variation at statistical local areas (SLA) over time. Results reveal high incidence rates of BFV disease along coastal areas compared to the whole area of Queensland. A Mantel-Haenszel Chi-square analysis for trend reveals a statistically significant relationship between BFV disease incidence rates and age groups (ƒÓ2 = 7587, p<0.01). Semi-variogram analysis and smoothed maps created from interpolation techniques indicate that the pattern of spatial autocorrelation was not homogeneous across the state.

A cluster analysis was used to detect the hot spots/clusters of BFV disease at a SLA level. Most likely spatial and space-time clusters are detected at the same locations across coastal Queensland (p<0.05). The study demonstrates heterogeneity of disease risk at a SLA level and reveals the spatial and temporal clustering of BFV disease in Queensland.

Discriminant analysis was employed to establish a link between wetland classes, climate zones and BFV disease. This is because the importance of wetlands in the transmission of BFV disease remains unclear. The multivariable discriminant modelling analyses demonstrate that wetland types of saline 1, riverine and saline tidal influence were the most significant risk factors for BFV disease in all climate and buffer zones, while lacustrine, palustrine, estuarine and saline 2 and saline 3 wetlands were less important. The model accuracies were 76%, 98% and 100% for BFV risk in subtropical, tropical and temperate climate zones, respectively. This study demonstrates that BFV disease risk varied with wetland class and climate zone. The study suggests that wetlands may act as potential breeding habitats for BFV vectors.

Multivariable spatial regression models were applied to assess the impact of spatial climatic, socio-economic and tidal factors on the BFV disease in Queensland. Spatial regression models were developed to account for spatial effects. Spatial regression models generated superior estimates over a traditional regression model. In the spatial regression models, BFV disease incidence shows an inverse relationship with minimum temperature, low tide and distance to coast, and positive relationship with rainfall in coastal areas whereas in whole Queensland the disease shows an inverse relationship with minimum temperature and high tide and positive relationship with rainfall. This study determines the most significant spatial risk factors for BFV disease across Queensland.

Empirical models were developed to forecast the future risk of BFV disease outbreaks in coastal Queensland using existing climatic, socio-economic and tidal conditions under climate change scenarios. Logistic regression models were developed using BFV disease outbreak data for the existing period (2000-2008). The most parsimonious model had high sensitivity, specificity and accuracy and this model was used to estimate and forecast BFV disease outbreaks for years 2025, 2050 and 2100 under climate change scenarios for Australia.

Important contributions arising from this research are that: (i) it is innovative to identify high-risk coastal areas by creating buffers based on grid-centroid and the use of fine-grained spatial units, i.e., mesh blocks; (ii) a spatial regression method was used to account for spatial dependence and heterogeneity of data in the study area; (iii) it determined a range of potential spatial risk factors for BFV disease; and (iv) it predicted the future risk of BFV disease outbreaks under climate change scenarios in Queensland, Australia.

In conclusion, the thesis demonstrates that the distribution of BFV disease exhibits a distinct spatial and temporal variation. Such variation is influenced by a range of spatial risk factors including climatic, demographic, socio-economic, ecological and tidal variables. The thesis demonstrates that spatial regression method can be applied to better understand the transmission dynamics of BFV disease and its risk factors. The research findings show that disease notification data can be integrated with multi-factorial risk factor data to develop build-up models and forecast future potential disease risks under climate change scenarios. This thesis may have implications in BFV disease control and prevention programs in Queensland.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 55047
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Tong, Shilu, Mengersen, Kerrie, & Hu, Wenbiao
Keywords: Barmah Forest virus, climate change scenarios, forecast, geographical information systems, modelling, mosquito-borne diseases, projections, spatial and temporal analysis
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 21 Nov 2012 01:04
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2015 11:06

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