NZ includes Tonga in Zika advisory

NZ includes Tonga in Zika advisory

New Zealand has had its first notifications for Zika virus for the year and the Ministry of Health has extended its travel advisory to include Tonga as a Zika-active region.

The notifications involve nine people who have recently come back from the South Pacific – four has been to Tonga, four were in Samoa and one is still to be reported.

Tonga has now had one recent case of Zika.

Four of them were women, and for two the potential for pregnancy has been ruled out, while tests are underway on the other two.

A 47-year-old man has been hospitalised in Waikato Hospital with symptoms indicative of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS). It is not known if Zika virus causes GBS and work is being done to determine if they are related.

GBS can cause paralysis, but most patients make a full recovery. The man is in a stable position.

All other eight individuals have recovered.

However, the Ministry's chief medical officer Dr Don Mackie says the notifications should be seen in the context of a large number of travellers in the Pacific – in 2014 there were 57 Zika notifications, and last year there was six.

"We will be providing advice to incoming travellers and the Ministry is updating its information for health professionals.  There remains robust mosquito surveillance and monitoring at our borders," Dr Mackie says.

Messages will be posted at international airports and information will also be available in a health advice card telling people what to do if they get sick within a month of returning to New Zealand.

The advice will also be available in Tongan and Samoan.

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