Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Kiwi teen tests positive for Zika virus

Jen Byrn, 18, decided to join two friends on a trip to Tonga just the day before their flight left on January 22. Photo / Facebook
Jen Byrn, 18, decided to join two friends on a trip to Tonga just the day before their flight left on January 22. Photo / Facebook

Jen Byrn's infection with the mosquito-borne zika virus has been confirmed by her doctor.

"I talked to my GP this morning," the 18-year-old Aucklander said today of the results of a sample of her blood that was sent to Australia for zika testing.

"In a way it's a relief to get it completely confirmed [as zika] as it could have been something worse. In that way it's a relief to be fully sure what's been going on."

Jen said the illness seemed to have almost run its course, following her infection from mosquito bites when she was on holiday in Tonga last month.

"It's pretty much gone. I've got a headache and I'm a bit tired and my eyes are still a bit sore, but everything else has subsided. The rash is gone and I'm feeling more awake, less fatigued. I'm pretty much almost back to normal - 80 per cent."

Zika is suspected of causing birth defects and has been declared a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organisation.

Most people infected with the mosquito-borne virus do not have any symptoms.

20 per cent experience symptoms, which appear three to 12 days after infection, and which can include low-grade fever, joint and muscle pain, headache, red eyes, red rash and weakness. There is no specific treatment, nor a vaccine.

The WHO declaration follows a cluster of birth defects reported in Brazil.

The NZ Ministry of Health recommends that women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant soon consider delaying travel to areas where zika virus transmission is occurring. Women returning from zika-infected areas who want to become pregnant should use contraception for three weeks after returning to New Zealand.

Pregnancy is not an issue for Jen who said she is not pregnant and not planning to become pregnant in the near future.

Jen's case makes 11 confirmed cases of zika in New Zealand this year, all of which were caught when the people were overseas.

The ministry says the mosquito species that can spread zika are not normally found in New Zealand.

Zika transmission has been reported in parts of Africa, southern Asia, the Pacific Islands and the Americas.

The ministry urges travellers in affected areas to protect themselves from mosquitoes by measures including wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and using insect repellant and bed-nets.

- Daily Mail

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