CLIMATE change will make Australia vulnerable to the spread of foreign diseases, according to the report into coastal temperature change from the standing committee on climate change.
And urgent action is needed to fill the gaps in the ability to deal with disease outbreaks.
The report warned that a mosquito-spread virus similar to Ross River fever, chikungunya fever, could enter Australia and changing climatic conditions could lead to more outbreaks of dengue fever.
''The knowledge gaps identified by the national climate change adaptation research facility research plan … [on] the relationship between climate variation and vector-borne disease should be urgently addressed,'' the report said.
Chikungunya, which has spread from Africa to India and Papua New Guinea, has no known vaccine or specific antiviral treatments. It is not fatal, but can cause lifelong weakness and joint pain.
''The fact chikungunya has spread all of a sudden in India, and so quickly, is due to a number of factors but climate change is definitely one of those,'' said Suresh Mahalingam, who received a $400,000 government grant earlier this year to research the causes of the virus.
''If climate change is defined as our temperatures getting hotter, these are conditions that allow mosquitoes to breed. The chance of the virus spreading also increases.''
Yesterday's report recommended tightening biosecurity, and a national plan to deal with mosquito outbreaks. It also recommended more research to link climate change to vector-borne disease and modelling to predict such outbreaks.
''The committee believes that immediate action should be taken to provide for better early warning of threats from vector-borne disease, as well as long-term modelling for earlier forecasting of threats,'' it said. ''The significant outbreak, in early 2009, of dengue fever in Cairns, Queensland, with over 1000 cases marks a cause for concern.''
The report noted that two mosquito species known to carry dengue fever and chikungunya - Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus - had been identified in the Northern Territory 50 years after they were thought to have been eradicated outside Queensland. More than $1 million was spent managing the infestation at Tennant Creek.
''Vector-borne infectious diseases are likely to increase due to changing conditions for vectors and hosts. Geographic ranges of some diseases are likely to change, putting new populations at risk.''
As well as vector-borne disease, climate change could increase mental illness in drought-affected areas and increase the number of deaths related to thermal stress.