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Zika Virus

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus related to the dengue virus. There are concerns regarding the Zika virus and the impact it can have on infected people, especially pregnant women. 

Zika is a virus spread by mosquito bites. The mosquitoes that can spread Zika are not normally found in New Zealand, but they are found in many countries around the world. The virus can be found in parts of Africa, southern Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas. The virus may also be present in countries with the vector mosquitoes and not be detected yet.

All cases of Zika reported in New Zealand have involved people who had recently been in countries where an outbreak was occurring.

New Zealand and world health authorities are continuing to monitor the spread of Zika virus.

Concerns about Zika and infected people

There are concerns that pregnant women who become infected with Zika can transmit the disease to their unborn babies, with potentially serious consequences. Reports from several countries, including Brazil, indicate an increase in severe birth defects in babies whose mothers were infected while pregnant.

There are also concerns that Zika sometimes leads to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a serious immune system disorder.

There is ongoing research about how Zika can affect infected people.

Symptoms

The virus causes mild symptoms that can last from 4-7 days. Only around one in five people who are infected with Zika experience any symptoms. If someone does get symptoms, they are likely to occur within a few days to a week after being infected, but they may take up to 12 days to appear.

For those who do experience symptoms, they can include:

  • low-grade fever
  • joint pain, especially in the small joints of the hands and feet, with possible swelling
  • muscle pain
  • headache
  • red eyes
  • rash

When to see a health care provider

Zika infection may cause a rash that could be confused with other serious diseases such as measles or dengue, so it's important to check with a health care professional to rule out these diseases.
If you are pregnant and develop symptoms up to three weeks after leaving a country where Zika virus cases have been reported, see your health care provider and tell them about everywhere you travelled.

Treatment

There are no specific treatments for Zika virus. Symptoms will typically clear up after 4-7 days.

Use paracetamol for pain and fever if needed. Until your healthcare professional can rule out dengue, do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, as there is a risk of bleeding.

Anyone with symptoms should get plenty of rest and fluids. Call Healthline 0800 611 116 if you are unsure what to do.

Prevention

There is no vaccine for Zika virus. Because Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being bitten.

We recommend that people who travel to any Pacific Island country should protect themselves against mosquito bites.

People who are travelling outside the Pacific area should check the CDC website (cdc.gov/zika) for the most up-to-date list of countries with confirmed Zika virus transmissions.

Anyone who is pregnant or plans to become pregnant should consider delaying travel to an affected area. We recommend that women travelling in Zika-affected areas protect themselves against mosquito bites and, if needed, use an appropriate contraception to prevent pregnancy. Women returning from Zika-affected areas should avoid getting pregnant for four weeks after leaving the affected country.

The risk of the infection being spread by means other than mosquito bites is still unclear and is likely to be a very rare occurrence. There is very limited scientific evidence to suggest the virus can be sexually transmitted. The best way to reduce the possibility of sexual transmission of the virus, or the possibility of becoming pregnant while infected with Zika virus, is to practice safe sex and use condoms. We recommend that both men and women use appropriate contraception for four weeks after returning from areas which have current active transmissions of Zika virus.

Mosquito protection

Everyone who is travelling to an affected country should protect themselves from mosquitoes.

  • Use insect repellents and check the label to make sure they contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535. Always use as directed
  • Insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, and IR3535 are safe for pregnant and nursing women and children older than 2 months when used according to the product label. Oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children under 3 years of age
  • If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. You can use insect repellent to treat your clothing, as directed
  • Use clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents) that has been treated with the insecticidepermethrin
  • Use insecticide spray as directed to get rid of mosquitoes
  • Use bed nets to protect your sleeping area
  • Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms
  • In tents, use a zip-up screen

More information

Latest information about Zika 

Zika travel advice

Contact your Doctor at The Fono if you are concerned about Zika virus.

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