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26 - 01 - 2016

Current state of the Zika virus

Transmitted by the tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), Zika is a virus that causes similar symptoms to dengue or chikungunya. Let’s have a look at this endemic disease that has recently appeared in several overseas departments (French Guiana, Guadeloupe and especially Martinique). 


Moustique tigre (Aedes albopictus), vecteur du virus Zika


Zika, a new virus ?

Contrary to what one might think, Zika is not an unknown virus. Identified for the first time in 1957 in a monkey from the Zika forest in Uganda and in humans in 1952, this virus causes fevers, headaches, rashes, fatigue and muscle and joint pain.


But what worries the authorities above all is that the virus is responsible in some cases for fetal malformations, such as microcephaly, which causes irreversible mental retardation. For that reason, a state of health emergency has been declared in Brazil.


The tiger mosquito is spreading


Classified in the top 100 most invasive species in the world and easily identifiable by its black and white stripes, the tiger mosquito is the primary vector of the Zika virus.


Indeed, this mosquito is spreading across France and the rest of the world, “after dengue and chikungunya, it is now Zika fever that we dread to see debark via the tiger mosquito," say CNRS experts.


The large-scale dispersable ability of this mosquito is possible thanks to its eggs that can withstand long-term dehydration (up to 6 months according to the Pasteur Institute website). 


Research is mobilizing against the Zika virus


For now, the only treatments available are symptomatic – no vaccine or specific treatments against the virus have been developed.


To better fight this plague, researchers from the Pasteur Institute of Guyana have sequenced the entire genome of the Zika virus circulating on the American continent. Furthermore, “within the institute, teams are already developing animal models” to explore the connection between Zika and birth defects, according to the specialist Anna-Bella Failloux.


More information on the WHO website: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the Zika virus