8 Jan 2014

WHO monitoring French Polynesia zika and dengue

4:21 pm on 8 January 2014

The World Health Organisation says it's monitoring closely the situation in French Polynesia which is fighting outbreaks of zika virus and dengue fever.

Officials say 20,000 people have sought medical help because of zika but they fear many more thousands could be infected.

The French territory also has about 1,500 people confirmed with dengue fever.

The WHO's head of emerging disease surveillance and response, Suva-based Dr Eric Nilles, says an epidemiologist from the WHO, and a entomologist from the SPC have been sent to French Polynesia to assist.

Dr Nilles says they are keeping a close eye on what is going on.

"Anytime there is a virus circulating in the blood of humans and that human flies to another country or another territory, there are mosquitoes in that destination or territory that could transmit that virus then there is a chance that this could spread and certainly that is always a concern for us that there is potential for spread of this virus to other areas of the Pacific"

Dr Nilles says the zika virus has spread to New Caledonia from French Polynesia.

Dr Nilles also says it's the second zika virus outbreak in the Pacific, the first was in 2007 in the Federated States of Micronesia where more than 70 percent of the population of Yap was infected.