It's the virus Olympic athletes are sprinting away from and a global issue so widespread the World Health Organisation has declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

And it appears New Zealand's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Murray McCully, is among a handful of Kiwis to have contracted Zika.

The Weekend Herald understands McCully contracted Zika at least two years ago - the virus that has had a raft of the world's top sport stars, including world golf number one Jason Day and a number of high-profile tennis players, choosing to opt out of the Rio Games, which begin in a fortnight.

A spokesman from McCully's office last night acknowledged a situation from "several years ago" but not how, where or when the senior government official could have been infected. "The Foreign Minister had a suspected case of Zika several years ago, but it was never formally diagnosed," he said.


John Key's office would not comment on whether McCully disclosed the situation to the Prime Minister.

According to the Ministry of Health, Zika can be transmitted by mosquitoes and sexually. Symptoms can include fever, rashes, headaches and joint pain.

Athletes who are not going to Rio because of the disease include top-10 tennis players Simona Halep and Milos Raonic, and top golfers including Rory McIlroy and Jason Day.

McCully has had a string of health issues recently, taking two and a half months off work. He had private surgery in November to remove a tumour from his pancreas, which turned out to be benign, contracted the MRSA superbug and then a series of infections.

In January, the Ministry of Health said it received nine Zika notifications.