Zika virus (ZIKV), a rare but benign mosquito borne illness, is spreading across the islands of the south pacific. The Disease Daily recently published a spotlight piece on Zika virus, highlighting current outbreaks on 15 different Polynesian islands including Tahiti and Bora Bora.
Most recently, according to local news reports and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, one confirmed and 40 suspected cases of the mosquito-borne virus were detected on Easter Island, also located in the south pacific. Easter Island, or Isla de Pascua, is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world; the nearest continental point lies in central Chile, more than 2,000 miles away. The Island is governed by Chile’s Valparaíso Region and is most famous for its ancient monolithic rock statues carved by the indigenous Rapa Nui.
To control the outbreak, Chile increased preventive measures against both Zika and dengue virus, since they are both transmitted through a bite from the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. Travelers are advised to practice precautions such as applying insect repellent and wearing protective clothing. Additionally, Chilean health authorities strengthened surveillance methods by tracking and monitoring any cases of fever and rash on the island.
Authorities believe that tourists from other vacation islands in the area may have carried the virus onto Easter Island. From January to February, Easter Island celebrates its annual Tapati Festival, which attracts thousands of tourists due to the mix of dances, music, sports, and theatrical presentations, all of which pay homage to the island’s rich history and people.
Chilean health authorities decided not to raise a health alert, stating that the outbreak is contained and under control.