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Low risk of Zika in NZ: experts

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 18/08/2016

The risks that most New Zealanders face of getting Zika, while real, are rated as small.

The reason is because the country doesn't harbour the Aedes genus of mosquitoes that spread the virus, according to an article in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

Gareth Parry, Matthew Peacey and Eric Buenz, from the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, say Pacific countries that have reported cases of Zika virus infection have climates that support the Aedes mosquito.

"Thus, travellers to these area are at risk of infection," they wrote.

"New Zealand travellers returning from endemic areas have developed the illness associated with the virus, but the probability of autochthonous (individual-to-individual) transmission in New Zealand is very small."

The researchers also said the illness caused by Zika virus infection is generally mild and had no major impact on individuals who had a normal immune system or who were not pregnant.

While the Aedes mosquito was not endemic to New Zealand, the article said continuing vigilance was needed.

Major trading partners Australia, the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia harboured the mosquito, which the New Zealand climate was capable of supporting and the insect was occasionally identified at the border.

The Zika issue has become highly topical because of the Rio Olympics and the decision by some athletes not to go to the Games because of their fear of catching the virus.

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