Please note this alert refers to the zika virus situation in 2014 and is retained for historical purposes.
For up to date alerts and information on Zika virus see Zika virus alert.
What is the current situation?
Public health authorities in New Caledonia, French Polynesia, and Cook Islands have reported on-going outbreaks of Zika virus infection with local transmission.
Local transmission means that mosquitoes in the area have been infected with Zika virus and are spreading it to people. The governments of New Caledonia and French Polynesia are working to control these outbreaks.
Zika virus is found in many parts of Africa but first emerged in the Pacific in 2007 in Yap (Federated States of Micronesia). It re-emerged in the region in French Polynesia in October 2013 and to date there have been over 300 laboratory confirmed cases reported.
Outbreaks of other mosquito-borne infections such as dengue and chikungunya have also been recently reported in a number of countries and territories in the Pacific.
What is Zika fever?
Zika fever is an illness caused by the Zika virus that is spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes. The virus is closely related to dengue virus and causes a similar illness. Symptoms of Zika fever may include fever, headache, red eyes, rash, muscle aches, and joint pains. The illness is usually mild and lasts 4-7 days.
Who is at risk?
Travellers who go to certain places in Africa, Asia, and the Western Pacific are at risk of getting Zika virus (see map). The Aedes mosquito that carries Zika virus can bite during the day and night, both indoors and outdoors, and often lives around buildings in urban areas.
How is it prevented?
Travellers to affected areas should avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. The mosquitoes that transmit zika, dengue and chikungunya prefer to live and bite people indoors, and peak biting activity is during daylight hours. The mosquito hides under furniture and tends to bite around the feet and ankles. People may not notice they are being bitten.
These mosquitoes prefer to rest in dark areas inside and under houses and buildings. The mosquitoes breed in clean water in man-made containers found in and around the home (e.g., rainwater tanks, gutters, old tyres and rubbish).
Travellers to affected areas should stay in accommodation with screened windows and doors, wear loose fitting clothing that covers the arms and legs and apply insect repellent containing DEET or Picaridin to exposed skin, especially during daylight hours and in the early evening. Insecticidal surface sprays inside the home can kill the adult mosquitoes.
There is currently no vaccine against Zika virus.
For additional advice on steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes see the Mosquitoes are a Health Hazard fact sheet.
Information for health professionals
Laboratory testing for Zika virus infection is undertaken in arbovirus reference laboratories.
Contact your local public health unit on 1300 066 055 for assistance.