What do you know about Dengue? That it’s a mosquito-borne topical disease, and that it causes a fever, joint pain and rashes? That’s pretty easy. A quick google will tell you it requires medical diagnosis, and sometimes hospitalisation, and that it’s actually caused by a virus.
That is not all there is to know about one of the most significant health issues in the world.
Dengue fever was introduced to Australia after colonisation, and Australians have played a massive role in identifying and describing Dengue fever.
James Cook University professor and resident Dengue expert John McBride knows a lot about the scientific side of Dengue, but is also an expert in the tropical disease’s historical side.
“It was introduced into Australia in the early colonial days, it probably didn’t exist prior to colonisation,” John said. “A lot of people would be surprised to know, for instance, that dengue caused a lot of problems in Brisbane in the early 1900s.”
According to John, Queensland has a long history of epidemics, but the last two decades has seen the disease’s prevalence increase, and he has some ideas why.
Given the long history of Dengue fever, John is a relatively new expert in a long line of Australians who have helped in the fight against the disease.
“Australia has a strong history of Dengue, the earliest descriptions of the complications of Dengue came out of Australia,” he said. “The infecting mosquito that is the vector was first identified in Australia. Interesting experiments were done to establish that it was a mosquito-borne disease, this is before viruses were discovered, and to work out the type of mosquito that it was.”
John’s expertise stems from his research into Dengue, which includes a PhD, a paper on the diagnosing of the fever, laboratory research and a study into the epidemic in Charters Towers in the 1990s.
“We can all learn from history, particularly northern Queensland, but Queensland overall and put it in context in of one the block-buster diseases internationally.”