For most of human history, regional and continental populations have been relatively isolated from each other. Only comparatively recently has there been extensive contact between peoples, flora and fauna from both old and new worlds (Diamond, 1998
). The movement of disease has proved a major force in shaping world history, as wars, crusades, diasporas and migrations have carried infections to susceptible populations. Until World War II, more war victims died of microbes introduced by the enemy, than of battle wounds (Karlen, 1995
). More often than not, the victors in past wars were not those armies with the best weapons and generals, but those bearing the deadliest pathogens (Zinsser, 1943
; Diamond, 1998
Initially, new infectious diseases could spread only as fast and far as people could walk. Then as fast and far as horses could gallop and ships could sail. With the advent of truly global travel, the last five centuries have seen more new diseases than ever before become potential pandemics (Karlen, 1995
). The current reach, volume and speed of travel are unprecedented, so that human mobility has increased in high-income countries by over 1000-fold since 1800 (Wilson, 1995
). Aviation, in particular, has expanded rapidly as the world economy has grown, though worries about its potential for spreading disease began with the advent of commercial aviation (Massey, 1933
). Passenger numbers have grown at nearly 9% per annum since 1960 and are expected to increase at more than 5% per annum for at least the next 10 years, with airfreight traffic showing similar changes (Upham et al., 2003
). Similarly, globalization of the world economy has also resulted in a shipping traffic increase of over 27% since 1993 (Zachcial and Heideloff, 2003
The efficiency, speed and reach of modern transport networks puts people at risk from the emergence of new strains of familiar diseases, or from completely new diseases (Guimera et al., 2005
). Additionally, the global growth of economic activity, tourism and human migration is leading to ever more cases of the movement of both disease vectors and the diseases they carry.
This contribution reviews examples of past movement of three categories of disease through global transport networks: (i) pandemics; (ii) disease vector invasions; and (iii) vector-borne diseases. For each, we review examples of past events and their current status, while for sections (ii) and (iii), we put forward novel approaches for the modelling and prediction of future events.