Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

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Dengue fever, Chikungunya and Zika virus

Outbreaks of mosquito-borne illnesses are common in the tropical and sub-tropical climates in many Pacific Islands, in North Queensland (Australia), Asia (including India), tropical Africa and Latin/South America. 

Dengue fever, chikungunya virus and Zika virus are spread by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito and cannot be spread directly from person to person.  The Aedes mosquitoes that are able to spread these viruses are not normally found in New Zealand.

Since 2014, there has been an increase in confirmed cases of dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus infection in many Pacific Islands including the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Fiji, New Caledonia, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu. In November 2015, cases of Dengue fever were reported by the Hawaii Department of Health on Hawaii Island (also known as the Big Island). The Zika virus is spreading to many tropical and sub-tropical countries. Our Zika news item provides further information on the Zika virus, including affected Pacific Island states.

As there is no vaccine to protect against dengue fever, chikungunya virus or Zika virus, travellers to these countries are advised to use insect repellent, wear protective clothing, and stay in lodgings where there are mosquito screens on windows and doors. Because Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses are transmitted by mosquitoes mostly active during daytime, it is important that all travellers visiting affected areas continue to take protective measures to prevent mosquito bites throughout the day.  The Ministry of Health website contains more advice on avoiding mosquito bites while travelling. 

Dengue fever is a viral disease that can be serious. Symptoms of dengue fever include high fever, headache, pain behind the eyes, joint pain, muscle and bone pain, rash and mild bleeding (e.g nose bleeds). A small proportion of dengue fever cases have a severe disease which can lead to shock or death. 

Chikungunya virus is a febrile viral illness.  Symptoms of chikungunya virus infection include fever, severe joint and muscle pain, headache and a rash. More severe illness may occur in the elderly or newborns.

Zika virus infection is in most cases a mild febrile illness. Zika virus was only detected in Africa and Asia until 2007, but is spreading across Oceania and the Americas.  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. Symptoms of Zika virus include mild fever, joint and muscle pain, headache, pain behind the eyes and a rash.  There are growing concerns that Zika virus infection during pregnancy could have a negative impact on foetal development. Women who are pregnant or may soon become pregnant should defer travel to Zika-affected countries. Please review the SafeTravel Zika page for further information: https://safetravel.govt.nz/news/zika-virus.

If you feel unwell during your trip or in the first three weeks after your return, you are advised to seek immediate medical advice and tell the doctor about your travel.

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