Overseas infectious diseases of priority concern

This section presents information on overseas infectious diseases for priority concern. These include Public Health Emergencies of International Concern (PHEICs), severe exotic respiratory diseases and mosquito-borne diseases in the Pacific.

Two diseases alerted as Public Health Emergencies of International Concern (PHEIC), 2018-19

Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was declared a PHEIC July 2019. This is the second time WHO has declared Ebola a PHEIC; the first declaration in West Africa lasted from 2014–16. Polio has remained a PHEIC since it was first announced in 2014. WHO lifted the Zika PHEIC in 2016 (Figure 1) [1].

Figure 1: Summary of PHEICs since 2005

Fig 1: Summary of PHEICs since 2005

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), January 2020

WHO declared the global outbreak of COVID-19 a PHEIC in January 2020 [2]. COVID-19 is a new coronavirus disease which causes respiratory illness. China reported the first cases in Wuhan, Hubei province, in late December 2019. Cases have since been reported in many countries across the world.

For the latest New Zealand specific information and public health advice visit the Ministry of Health website.

For the latest situation reports visit the WHO website.

Two types of serious respiratory virus were detected in the world, 2014-18

Human cases included Avian influenza A(H7N9)/A(H5N6), and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus [1]. None of these diseases were reported in the Pacific region.

Dengue affected eight countries and territories in the Pacific in 2018

Between 2013 and 2018 the number of Pacific Island countries and territories reporting cases of dengue ranged from eight to twelve (Figure 2) [3]. Over this period all four serotypes of Dengue were detected.

Figure 2: Number of Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) with dengue outbreaks, 2013–18

The WHO reported outbreak alerts for six mosquito-borne diseases, 2014–18: Chikungunya, Zika, Dengue Fever, Rift Valley Fever, Yellow Fever and West Nile Virus (WHO 2019c). Combined, these diseases were present across the Pacific, North and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe[1].


1. World Health Organization. Global Alert Response (GAR). (Accessed Feb 2019). Available from: http://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/en/

2. World Health Organization. WHO Director-General's statement on IHR Emergency Committee on Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Available from: https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-statement-on-ihr-emergency-committee-on-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov)

3. Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network. 2019 .Personal communication.

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