The Asia-Pacific has been on high alert for the mosquito-borne virus linked, currently found in epidemic proportions in the Americas, after being declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) in early February. The virus has been linked to birth defects in unborn babies.
Queensland state health authorities on Thursday said precautionary vector-control measures were being undertaken around the woman’s home in the north Queensland city of Townsville, however it’s believed the she was infected in Fiji and was not infectious when re-entering Australia. The women has become the state’s 19th Zika victim.
Authorities remain particularly cautious toward personnel returning from recovery and re-building operations in Fiji following Cyclone Winston in late February.
“It only takes a neglected pool or boat or somebody with junk in their yard and we could have a lot of breeding of these mosquitoes so we’re very much on alert,” Townsville Public Health Unit spokesman Dr Steven Donohue told Australia’s national broadcaster.
Tropical regions inadvertently serve as a breeding ground for the mosquito that carries the Zika virus, which can often be mis-diagnosed as dengue fever.
Health officials in Papua New Guinea, which is suffering an outbreak of dengue fever, confirmed early March six cases were in fact Zika virus following retrospective sample testing.
Though it’s possible the mosquito-borne illness could reach Australia through the Torres Strait via Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific, the biggest risk is from returning travellers who have visited a Zika affected country.
Pacific authorities have said measures implemented to stop the spread of Ebola can be reactivated if necessary.
Current efforts to combat Zika are focused on protecting people from being bitten and on eradicating mosquitoes, a tough task for many parts of the poverty stricken Pacific islands that have been saving water from the El Nino enforced drought, inadvertently providing a breeding ground for the disease spreading insect.