The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Friday that an outbreak of Zika in French Polynesia could cause travel-related imported cases in Europe and other Pacific islands.
The outbreak in French Polynesia has been ongoing since October. The disease is a mosquito-borne viral disease that is described as a mild, self-limiting febrile illness without severe complications.
The ECDC said neurological and autoimmune complications have been reported during the Zika outbreak. The agency said risk of spreading the disease to other islands is high in its risk assessment.
Transmission of the disease in the European Union from imported cases is not expected during the winter months, because of the low activity of mosquitoes. The ECDC said the disease could spread during summer months where mosquitoes are active. Protection against the virus is dependent on protection from mosquito bites and mosquitos.
The ECDC suggested laboratories improve their ability to confirm Zika cases and defer potential blood donors who have traveled to the region.
This is the first documented Zika virus outbreak in French Polynesia and New Caledonia.
French Polynesia is an overseas country that covers the Marquesas Islands, Society Islands, Tuamotu, Gambier and Austral Islands.