As the death toll from the coronavirus sweeping through China, health authorities say the current risk to New Zealand is low.
However, Otago University's Michael Baker said the virus had already spread to several other countries, and monitoring and preparation had to be stepped up.
The recent spread of measles to the Pacific showed the obligation New Zealand had.
"You can have a requirement that people do not leave on flights from New Zealand to Pacific Islands if they have respiratory illnesses that could be coronavirus, say, or in the past it could have been measles.
"So, I think we have a huge responsibility to not export this disease to the Pacific."
In Samoa, where a measles epidemic has claimed the lives of 83 people, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has told parliament that the health ministry had plans to counter coronavirus, should it reach Samoa.