New Zealand and world health authorities are continuing to monitor the spread of Zika virus. There is ongoing research about how it can affect infected people.
On 1 February 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). This is because of the concerns around birth defects and other neurological disorders, and the possible link to Zika virus infections. The WHO recommended:
• increased monitoring of the virus
• increased information and education about it and promotion of mosquito control.
New Zealand and international health authorities are still investigating the connection between Zika virus and the reports of birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes.
Most people who get infected with the Zika virus do not show any symptoms. Only one in five people who get it will feel sick. The symptoms appear 3-12 days after getting the infection. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. The illness is usually mild with the symptoms lasting a week. There is no vaccine for Zika virus disease. Those who do feel sick experience symptoms that may include:
• low-grade fever (between 37. 8°C and 38. 5°C)
• joint pain, especially the small joints of your hands and feet, with possible swollen joints
• muscle pain
• red eyes
• flat, red rash with small bumps
• feeling weak and tired.
Rare symptoms include digestive problems (abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation), small ulcers in the mouth or on the tongue, and itching
There is no specific treatment for Zika virus infection, and if symptoms develop these will typically clear up within 4-7 days. Zika infection may cause a rash that could be confused with other serious diseases such as measles or dengue, so it’s important that you check with a health care professional so that they can rule out these diseases. Until dengue fever can be ruled out, do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, as there is a risk of bleeding. Use paracetamol for pain and fever if needed. Get plenty of rest and fluids, and treat the symptoms that you have. Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes that are active during the day. The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to avoid being bitten.
Zika is spreading to many tropical and sub-tropical countries. According to the information available, including the cases reported in New Zealand, the three Pacific states where Zika virus infections are currently occurring are Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga. This list will be updated as the situation changes. We recommend that if you’re travelling to any of the Pacific Island countries, you should always take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.