What precautions to take against the Zika virus?

Un agent municipal à Rio de Janeiro, le 26 janvier.

Faced with the spread of Zika virus, the Health Minister, Marisol Touraine, Thursday, January 28, has “strongly” recommended that pregnant women defer possible trips to Martinique or French Guiana.

“This is an epidemic serious outbreak [which] can be very severe with neurological effects and complications of pregnant women, birth defects for their baby. “

The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan, said that the virus was spreading ” explosively. “ The alert level is extremely high, “ Has she said, fearing ” the potential for international spread. ” The virus is already present in 21 of 55 countries in the Americas, a spread which is likely to worsen quickly, since the mosquito transmitter is already present in all countries of America, with the exception of Canada and Chile. A meeting of the emergency committee will be held on 1 er in February.

  • What is the Zika virus?

This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes of the genus Aedes aegypti and tiger mosquitoes, which can also be carriers of dengue and chikungunya. The virus is not spread directly between humans.

Zika virus was spotted for the first time in 1947, on a monkey in Uganda. It also bears the name of a forest south of Kampala, the capital. According to the Public Health High Council (HCST), the virus was isolated in humans in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania.

The first major epidemic of 2007 on the islands Yap in Micronesia. In French Polynesia, between November 2013 and February 2014, about 32,000 people have been infected. And in 2014 and 2015 is around the New Caledonia to be affected by an epidemic. The strain of this virus now circulating in America, where it causes an outbreak since 2015 “unprecedented” as the Pasteur Institute

Despite this propagation, “illness is not well known,” as the HCST, but it has some characteristics:

  • in the vast majority of cases (70-80%) the infection goes unnoticed. When speaking about a person, the symptoms are flu-like – fever, headache, body aches – accompanied by rashes. “The incubation period varies from 3 to 12 days’ , according to the HCST;
  • the virus can also be manifested as conjunctivitis or pain behind the eyes, and by swelling of the hands or feet
  • the disease spreads less as dengue or chikungunya, which is also transmitted by mosquitoes Aedes but health authorities have observed that it resulted in an unusual frequency of neurological complications, which can cause Guillain-Barre syndrome;
  • so far no deaths by Zika has been indexed
  • Why are pregnant women particularly monitored?
Une mère de famille brésilienne avec son enfant atteint de microcéphalie, à Récife, le 27 janvier.

In addition to the mentioned symptoms, the virus can cause harm to the fetus carried by infected women. Indeed, attacks pregnant women can give birth to infants with microcephaly: babies are born with a head circumference below 33 cm and irreversible mental retardation if they manage to survive.

To understand. Infection of the fetus by Zika, studies are ongoing, including one in French Polynesia, where the epidemic lasted from late 2013 to early 2014. In Martinique, where the epidemic is currently spreading, a cohort involving pregnant women is organized to establish with certainty the relationship between Zika and microcephaly

  • Is Zika present in France?

No cases have yet been reported in France. In the summer of 2015, the High Public Health Council had, however, describes a “real” risk that the virus will spread in France, where the tiger mosquito is present in twenty departments “including cases of virus circulation in the French departments of America “.

These days health officials spoke indigenous cases (infections acquired locally) in the islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique and Saint-Martin, In the Caribbean. Marisol Touraine has also announced on Thursday, sending “within days” sanitary reinforcements in Martinique to assess the needs of hospitals and doctors

The coast of French Guiana, in South America, where 45 cases “laboratory confirmed and 160 suspected including four pregnant women,” happened in epidemic phase the Zika virus.

If the virus reappeared for the first time in Brazil in May 2015, it is now present in 21 of 55 countries in the Americas. According to WHO, the virus Zika will continue to expand in the coming weeks.

Brazil, home to ten days in the Rio de Janeiro Carnival, does not disclose the number of patients but only suspected cases of microcephaly: nearly 4,200 since October, against only 147 babies affected in 2014. The Brazilian government has also announced, Tuesday, January 26, deploying 220,000 soldiers to intensify the fight against the virus. The mobilized soldiers will go house to house to distribute leaflets raising awareness of the means of struggle against the epidemic.

Colombia is the second most affected country with over 13,800 confirmed cases, including 890 pregnant women a hundred babies with microcephaly. The government declared Tuesday the first warning level so that hospitals are preparing to respond to a spread of the disease.

Given this spread of the epidemic, the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, called the South American country to adopt “cooperative action in the fight against Zika” . It also announced a meeting of health ministers of Mercosur, the South American common market. For his part, the president of the United States, Barack Obama, launched Tuesday a call for urgent action.

“The president stressed the need to accelerate research efforts to develop better diagnostics, vaccines and treatments and ensuring that all Americans are informed on the Zika virus “, the White House said in a statement.

Finally, for one week The presence of the virus was reported in at least six European countries: the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark and Switzerland. However, no infection has been reported in pregnant women.

  • What precautions to take?

There is not, at present, cure or vaccine against this disease. The only treatment is to reduce pain by analgesics. Brazil, however, announced Saturday, January 16, a test to diagnose the same time Zika virus, chikungunya and dengue. It will be applied in priority to pregnant women. The Brazilian Minister of Health also recommended for women “to avoid pregnancy at this time”

In France, the Ministry of Health issued on Friday a few recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus. He advocates destroying larvae and potential breeding of mosquitoes (delete saucers under plant pots, empty at least once a week receptacles containing stagnant water …) and to protect themselves from bites by wearing long clothing and using repellents and mosquito nets.

It is especially necessary to protect themselves during the day, the ministry added, mosquitoes transmitting the virus that mainly daytime activity.

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