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New Zealand travellers to high-risk destinations for arbovirus infection make little effort to avoid mosquito bites

Abstract

There has been no local transmission of arbovirus disease recorded in New Zealand to date. However, in the past two decades, there have been increasing numbers of overseas-acquired cases of arbovirus infections in New Zealand, mainly dengue, Zika, chikungunya and Ross River viruses. The repeated introduction of these viruses to the immunologically naïve New Zealand population through viraemic travellers represents a potential risk for local transmission by resident or new mosquito vectors. This study assessed the extent to which these imported arbovirus disease cases used the bite-avoidance measures recommended by the New Zealand Ministry of Health between 2001–2017. The majority of notified cases reported making little effort to avoid mosquito bites even during high-risk periods and outbreaks. This suggests that the infection of New Zealand travellers might be due to underestimation or unawareness of the risk of travel-related mosquito-borne diseases. New Zealand travellers to endemic or epidemic areas, mainly in the Asia-Pacific region, should be informed about ongoing risks according to season and epidemic activity at the destination and updated on the latest disease situation and new trends. This would reduce the likelihood of pathogen introduction and, therefore, local transmission of arbovirus infection in New Zealand.

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