29 Nov 2013

WHO increases surveillance of zika virus in Pacific

6:10 am on 29 November 2013

The World Health Organisation says it's stepping up surveillance of dengue like illnesses in the Pacific region in response to an outbreak of zika virus in French Polynesia.

Zika fever is a viral illness, similar to dengue fever, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis and is spread though mosquito bites.

Two cases of zika fever have just been reported in New Caledonia following a confirmed outbreak affecting 30,000 people in French Polynesia this year.

WHO's Dr Eric Nilles says the number of weekly cases is being recorded from 23 countries and dengue like illness has now been added to the list of conditions being tracked.

He says WHO is asking doctors around the Pacific to help with the outbreak.

"We're also supporting laboratory testing; so New Caledonia, French Polynesia, have the capacity to test the zika virus but they're really the only two territories or countries in the Pacific that can do that. So we're supporting countries, if they have suspected cases, to refer samples for testing to reference laboratories for confirmation."

Dr Eric Nilles of the World Health Organisation in Fiji