The World Health Organization (WHO) has today announced a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in relation to the Zika virus.
The WHO has declared that the recent cluster of birth defects such as microcephaly reported in Brazil constitutes an “extraordinary event” and a public health threat to other parts of the world.
This declaration provides the trigger for a coordinated international response across a range of measures, including work to improve detection of infections and to intensify the control of mosquito populations.
The WHO does not recommend restrictions on travel or trade to prevent the spread of Zika virus.
It is important to note that the mosquito species (Aedes specie) that are able to spread Zika virus are not normally found in New Zealand. A national mosquito surveillance programme has been operating for some years at New Zealand's international ports and airports.
All cases of Zika virus infection reported in New Zealand have involved people who had recently been in countries where a Zika outbreak was occurring.
Additional international research is necessary and ongoing to determine the link between Zika virus and severe birth defects and neurological conditions, and this work will be be aided by the WHO's declaration of a PHEIC.
Until more is known, the Ministry of Health recommends that women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant in the near term consider delaying travel to areas where Zika virus is actively being transmitted. If travelling in Zika infected areas, women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare provider and take all precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
The Ministry of Health will be providing updates as new information becomes available.
Anyone planning travel overseas should speak to their doctor, to review any health risks or needed vaccinations. Information for travelers is also available on the SafeTravel website.
The Ministry of Health advises anyone who feels unwell after traveling overseas to call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or phone their GP or hospital prior to visiting. It is important that you inform your health care providers of any recent travel history.
Further information on Zika virus can be found at: