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Chikungunya Virus: A Novel and Potentially Serious Threat to New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands

Abstract

There has never been a locally transmitted outbreak of mosquito-borne disease in New Zealand, but the risk of an outbreak occurring is increasing with on-going interceptions of exotic mosquito vectors across its border, increasing traffic of goods and passengers, higher numbers of viremic travelers arriving, and local, regional, and global environmental change. The risk posed to New Zealand by chikungunya virus is potentially high because of the transmissibility of this virus in subtropical climates, compounded by a population that is predominantly immunologically naive to exotic arboviruses. However, risk reduction in New Zealand should not be considered in isolation but must be viewed within a wider South Pacific context. In this report, we discuss the potential threat posed by chikungunya to the region, focusing in particular on New Zealand, and re-emphasizing the need for a South Pacific–wide approach towards mosquito-borne disease prevention.

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