Treated with Zika virus in NZ after returning from Tonga

(Cate Broughton/Stuff) The Zika virus was an unwelcome memento from a Canterbury woman’s Tongan homeland holiday.

Piliniuote Fifita, 40, is the second person to be hospitalised with the Zika virus in New Zealand this year. She has recovered, but is worried for her family in Tonga where the virus has been declared an epidemic.

Fifita, who has four teenage children, said she had no plans to add to that number. She was thankful she was not pregnant, after reading of the virus’ links with severe birth defects.

She has lived in New Zealand for 17 years and had returned home for a holiday with her family for the first time in 10 years on December 22.

A week after arriving back in New Zealand on January 15, the symptoms began with a red eye.

“I had a red eye and rashes on my head. I was very itchy.”

The following day, the rash extended over her body and she began experiencing joint pain in her feet, ankles, hands, wrists and elbows.

“I could hardly lift anything, they were very sore.”

Concerned at the unusual symptoms and unable to walk, Fifita’s husband took her to the emergency department at Christchurch Hospital.

At first staff told her she may have contracted Dengue fever while in Tonga, but a doctor said it was more likely she had the Zika virus.

Fifita said she had never heard of Zika before and became alarmed after researching it on the internet.

“It got me worried because all the symptoms were the same.”

She was discharged from hospital the following day.

When the diagnosis was confirmed a week later, Fifita said it was not a surprise.

While in Tonga, the family was bitten numerous times by mosquitoes and relied on mosquito coils for protection, Fifita said.

“Next time we will take nets, insect repellent, wear light-coloured clothing that covers as much of your body as possible.”

Her main concern was with her family in Tonga.

“I’ve been encouraging them to keep containers of water empty and clean, and even to use insecticides.”

There have been 11 cases of Zika virus in New Zealand this year, as of February 4.

A 47-year-old man was admitted to Waikato Hospital with symptoms indicative of Guillain-Barre, a condition linked to the Zika virus, after returning to New Zealand from Tonga on January 15.

Most people who get infected with the virus do not show any symptoms and only one in five people who get it feel sick.

Symptoms appear 3-12 days after getting the infection and last from 4-7 days.

The Ministry of Health is recommending women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant in the near term consider delaying travel to areas with Zika virus present.

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

Right now Kaniva News provides a free, politically independent, bilingual news service for readers around the world that is absolutely unique. We are the largest New Zealand-based Tongan news service, and our stories reach Tongans  wherever they are round the world. But as we grow, there are increased demands on Kaniva News for translation into Tongan on our social media accounts and for the costs associated with expansion. We believe it is important for Tongans to have their own voice and for Tongans to preserve their language, customs and heritage. That is something to which we are strongly committed. That’s why we are asking you to consider sponsoring our work and helping to preserve a uniquely Tongan point of view for our readers and listeners.

Latest news

Related news