The virology laboratory of the Institut Pasteur in French Guiana (National Reference Centre for arboviruses, associated laboratory for the Antilles and French Guiana) has recently confirmed the first case of Zika virus in Guiana. To date, no local transmission has been identified. This case was imported from the neighboring Surinam where the Institut Pasteur in French Guiana virology laboratory already confirmed last month the first case of Zika virus infection.
The team from the Institut Pasteur in French Guiana, including epidemiologists, entomologists, virologists and physicians, were mobilized to investigate a group of people at risk of infection following a stay in Suriname.
Facing this first case in this French region, the senior management of the Institut Pasteur in French Guiana immediately informed the Regional Health Agency who, with the General Council and the local branch of the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance (CIRE Antilles Guyane), had already deployed heightened monitoring and intervention measures. In addition, an action plan is underway to prevent the spread of the disease in this region.
An other case has been confirmed in Martinique, and the Zika virus is currently spreading in Latin America: 9 countries have reported cases of Zika virus infection (Brazil, Guatemala, El Salvador, Paraguay, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Panama).
The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, like Dengue and Chinkungunya viruses. It causes mild fever, rash (mostly maculo-papular), headaches, arthralgia, myalgia, asthenia, and non-purulent conjunctivitis, occurring about three to twelve days after the mosquito vector bite. One out of four people may not develop symptoms, but in those who are affected the disease is usually mild with symptoms that can last between two and seven days (WHO). However, its dangerousness is raising concerns as recent increases in microcephaly among infants born to women infected with the virus have been noticed in Brazil (PAHO/WHO).
The presence of Zika virus in America was confirmed for the first time in April 2015. The origin of the virus is still under investigation but it may have been introduced to Brazil at the time of the 2014 football World Cup in the region of Bahia. The virus may have then spread to other states of Brazil. The absence of ecological barrier and the numerous population flows between border countries let presume that the Zika virus was going to spread in South America, especially in countries regularly facing dengue epidemics. Health authorities were on alert and watched for the virus outbreaks.