New Zealand Embassy Beijing, China

Avian Flu

The following general information on avian flu has been prepared for New Zealanders living overseas. We will update and reissue this when new information is available. We recommend that you also monitor advice provided by the New Zealand Ministry of Health.

New Zealanders living overseas should be prepared to take personal responsibility for their own safety and wellbeing should they be at risk from avian flu-related pandemic. The information below is offered to help New Zealanders make adequate preparations for this risk.

If avian flu becomes pandemic, there is a possibility that some countries may close their borders; this is an option that is being considered in New Zealand. Decisions to close borders may be taken very quickly following declaration of a pandemic. Therefore, you need to consider in advance how you can care for yourself, wherever you are.

Anti-viral medication (oseltamivir, commonly known as “Tamiflu") may be effective in treating infection with the H5N1 virus. You should consult your doctor on whether this is appropriate in your case. You may need to consider the availability of local stocks. The New Zealand Ministry of Health will not have sufficient stocks of Tamiflu to distribute to New Zealanders overseas.

Tamiflu can prevent infection with influenza but would need to be taken daily throughout the period of risk. It can also be effective post infection if taken within 48 hours of exposure and may reduce the severity of the illness. Very small children should not take the drug, and Tamiflu does have some side effects. Further information is available on the Ministry of Health website. It is unclear whether Tamiflu will be effective against the particular strain of avian flu that might become freely transmitted from human to human.

New Zealand embassies and high commissions overseas will not be able to:

  • provide any anti viral drugs such as Tamiflu to New Zealand citizens overseas, or
  • help New Zealand citizens overseas to return to New Zealand in the event that borders are closed.

The New Zealand Ministry of Health provides advice on avian flu.

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