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NZ babies to be monitored for Zika

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 28/07/2016

The virus is predominantly spread by the Aedes type of mosquito. © AP Images The virus is predominantly spread by the Aedes type of mosquito. Monitoring for congenital Zika syndrome is due to begin in New Zealand, with paediatricians being asked to report abnormalities among at-risk children under six months of age.

The monitoring will start in August and involve children with brain abnormalities whose mother, or mother's partner, was in a country with active Zika virus transmission during or just before her pregnancy.

Reporting will be through the Otago University-based New Zealand Paediatric Surveillance Unit, which already monitors other uncommon but important childhood conditions.

The Zika virus has hit the headlines in recent months because of the upcoming Rio Olympics and the decision of some athletes to pull out of the Games.

In Brazil at the end of 2015, there was a marked increase in the number of infants born with microcephaly, a very small head due to poor brain growth.

Associate Professor Nigel Dickson, epidemiologist with the NZPSU, says it is now clear the increase was because the mothers had been infected with the Zika virus.

The virus is predominantly spread by the Aedes type of mosquito.

While the commonest form - Aedes aegypti - is not in New Zealand, it is in many parts of the Pacific where the Zika virus has been known to exist for several years.

"Not only are pregnant women who visited or lived in areas where Zika is prevalent at risk, but also those whose partner had been in such places, as sexual transmission of the virus can occur," Mr Dickson said.

Auckland-based paediatric infectious disease specialist Dr Lesley Voss, said it was important get an understanding of the situation so people who had been or were considering going to the Pacific while pregnant could get appropriate advice.

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