Sexual transmission of Zika virus investigated

6:38 pm on 3 March 2016

The chances of the Zika virus being transmitted through sex in New Zealand are rare, says the Ministry of Health, despite officials investigating a possible case.

Tests for Zika

Tests for Zika Photo: AFP

The Ministry of Health says a man became ill after visiting a country where the virus is active, and has tested positive for the virus.

His female partner - who has not recently travelled to a Zika-affected country - has also tested positive for the virus.

Both suffered only mild symptoms and have fully recovered.

The ministry's Don Mackie says the virus could have been transmitted through unprotected sex, or the woman could have been bitten by an infected mosquito brought into the country in her partner's luggage.

But Dr Mackie said there were only eight reported cases of Zika being transmitted through sex internationally.

"To put that in context, in Brazil, a lot of alone, there is 1.4 million cases, so the vast majority of transmission is by mosquito."

Dr Mackie said the mosquitos that transmitted the disease did not live long, so the chances of transmission through them in New Zealand was also very slim.

Nine confirmed cases

Nine confirmed cases of Zika have been reported in New Zealand in the last week, which brings the total number of people treated for the disease this year up to 75.

The latest Institute of Environmental and Scientific Research figures show five women and four men have been confirmed to have Zika and one women had a probable case of the virus.

They were all over the age of 25.

While most cases are undetectable or cause mild symptoms such as low fever or joint pain - the virus has been linked to microcephaly, a severe birth defect.

There has been 71 confirmed cases of Zika in New Zealand, while another four are considered likely.

The figures show of those affected 49 were exposed to the disease while travelling in Samoa, a further 20 in Tonga and a handful were in American Samoa.

Only one case of the virus has been contracted in New Zealand.

In 2014 there were 57 Zika notifications, compared to only six last year.