Becoming ill after arriving in Aotearoa New Zealand

It’s always exciting when friends or family visit you from overseas – especially if you haven’t seen them for a long time. But that excitement can quickly turn to disappointment if they become sick after they arrive.

Who wants a planned trip to a beautiful location in Aotearoa to turn into an unplanned trip to the doctor?

And for Kiwis returning from overseas holidays or living abroad, it can be a total downer to be struck down with an illness after coming home.

Diseases can be picked up overseas but symptoms may not appear until touching down in Aotearoa. Some tropical diseases and infections can become serious quite quickly and may be life threatening.


Here are some tips for what to do if overseas visitors, or returning New Zealanders, become sick within a month of arriving or returning home:

Seek medical advice as soon as possible

As soon as you become ill, free phone Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice or make an appointment with a GP or doctor. 

Explain your travel history

Make sure you explain in detail where you have been overseas and what activities you’ve taken part in, eg, visiting a farm or snorkelling.

Describe all your symptoms

It’s important to describe in detail all of your symptoms. Tell the doctor if you have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • fever
  • difficulty breathing
  • ongoing coughing
  • ongoing diarrhoea
  • ongoing vomiting
  • skin rash
  • bruising or bleeding without injury
  • confusion
  • looking obviously unwell.

Reduce the risk of illness spreading

If someone you know becomes ill after arriving in the country, you can reduce the risk of catching the illness by avoiding contact with them where possible. If you are the person who becomes ill, you can minimise the risk of spreading it by:

  • keeping yourself away from others
  • covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • using disposable tissues to blow your nose
  • washing your hands frequently, including after the above
  • not sharing food, drinks or utensils (knives, forks, chopsticks, spoons, bowls, plates, straws, pens, pencils, toothbrushes etc).

The Ministry of Health has issued health advice cards for people who get sick within one month of arriving in New Zealand. They are available in 6 languages: English, Chinese, French, Korean, Samoan and Tongan.

Note: If you have been in mainland China since 2 February 2020 or in Hubei Province in the last 14 days, you need to self-isolate and phone a different Healthline phone number for free: 0800 358 5453 or if you have an international SIM, call on +64 9 358 5453. You can ask for a translator. They will provide advice on what to do.

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.