Health Professionals

Clinical Updates

13 November 2013

Zika virus outbreak: French Polynesia (Society, Marquesas and Tuamotu Islands)

On 30 October 2013, the health authorities in French Polynesia announced an outbreak of Zika virus (ZIKV) infection from  the Society Islands (cases reported from Bora Bora, Moorea, Raitea, Tahaa and Tahiti), the Marquesas Islands (cases reported from Nuku Hiva), and the Tuamotu Islands (cases reported from Arutua). The first cases were reported in early October.  As of 30 October, the number of suspected cases was estimated to be around 400.  Three cases have been confirmed [1]. 

Public health responses, including increased surveillance and the promotion of mosquito bite avoidance measures, are underway [1].

ZIKV is a flavivirus transmitted by Aedes spp mosquitoes.  ZIKV is an emerging disease in regions outside Africa and Asia and this is only the second outbreak reported in Oceania; the first occurred on Yap Island, Federated State of Micronesia, in 2007 [2].

Symptoms of infection include fever, headache, a maculo-papular rash, conjunctivitis and pain in the smaller joints of the hands and feet. The illness is usually mild and short lasting [3].

Advice to travellers

There are no vaccines to protect against ZIKV, which is transmitted by Aedes spp mosquitoes. Aedes mosquitoes bite in the day, particularly around dawn and dusk. Travellers should be advised to take insect bite avoidance measures to reduce the risk of infection with this or other mosquito borne disease, such as dengue fever, which is endemic to this region.

Advice for health professionals

Health professionals should be aware of the possibility of mosquito borne disease including ZIKV and dengue fever in febrile travellers who have recently visited this region and, if they suspect a case, should send appropriate samples for testing (including a full travel and clinical history with relevant dates) as early as possible to the Public Health England, Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory.

The Imported Fever Service: Public Health England is available to local infectious disease physicians or microbiologists should specialist advice be needed on 0844 7788990.



1. Institut de Veille Sanitaire. Bulletin Hebdomadaire Interntional No. 424. 30 octobre au 05 novembre 2013. [in French]. [Accessed 13 November 2013]. Available at:


2. Hayes, EB. Zika virus outside Africa. Emerg Inf Dis. 2009; 15,9. [Accessed 13 November, 2013]. Available at:

3. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Zika virus: Fact sheet for health professionals. [Accessed 13 November, 2013]. Available at:



European Centres for Disease Prevention and Control: Zika Virus Infection

NaTHNaC Health Information Sheet: Insect and tick bite avoidance

Public Health England: Imported Fever Service

Public Health England, Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory