Zika virus: what you need to know to protect yourself

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Zika virus: what you need to know to protect yourself

What is the Zika virus?

Zika virus belongs to the same family as the dengue virus and the yellow fever virus. It is transmitted to humans via a mosquito bite (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, in particular) and can spread in a number of ways: sexually (during unprotected sex via sperm), blood (and especially between the pregnant woman and her baby) or salivary (even if the researchers are not 100% sure).

Currently, Zika virus is present in many parts of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Listed below are the countries concerned: Angola, Argentina, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Ecuador, Fiji, Gabon, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Uganda, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Senegal, Singapore, Thailand, Venezuela, Vietnam *.

What are the symptoms of Zika virus?

In 74% to 81% of cases, infection with Zika virus is asymptomatic. In rare cases, symptoms appear between 3 and 12 days after transmission of the virus:

  • A red rash that runs from the face to the lower limbs (particularly visible at the trunk) called "maculopapular exanthema",
  • Asthenia (that is to say, a great fatigue both physical and mental),
  • Moderate fever (less than 39 ° C),
  • Joint pain (arthralgia),
  • Headaches (especially in the eyes),
  • Aches and pains (myalgia),
  • Conjunctivitis,
  • Edema at the extremities (hands, feet ...).

Is it serious ? Most of the time, Zika virus infection cures spontaneously within 2 to 7 days. However, some serious complications may occur, especially in pregnant women:

  • Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) : this inflammatory autoimmune disease of the nervous system is characterized by a progressive muscular paralysis which starts at the level of the legs to go up to the neck.
  • Myelitis : this inflammation of the spinal cord causes neuropathic pain, abnormal muscle weakness, muscle spasms, urinary and / or sexual disorders ...
  • Anomalies of intrauterine brain development : when the Zika virus reaches a pregnant woman, one can fear congenital microcephaly (that is to say: an abnormally small head at birth, with a brain that is not fully developed) in the unborn baby .
  • Meningoencephalitis : it is characterized by intense headaches, a high fever, an alteration of the general state (fatigue, irritability ...) and stiffness of the neck - it is a medical emergency!

How to protect yourself against the Zika virus?

Are you planning to travel to sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, the West Indies or Latin America? Here are some tips to avoid Zika virus contamination:

  • Protect yourself against mosquito bites: wear long, covering clothes (preferably light colored) and use effective skin repellents (ask your pharmacist for advice, specifying the risk of infection with Zika virus),
  • Protect your home against mosquitoes: mosquito bed nets, insect screens, electric diffusers, anti-mosquito sticks ...
  • Hunt for "potential breeding sites": buckets, cans, flower pots, gutters ... which may contain stagnant water,
  • Vigilance is mainly recommended in the morning and at the end of the day, since these are the hours of activity of mosquitoes vectors of Zika virus. We must also protect ourselves at night!
  • If symptoms appear (a rash with or without fever + at least two of the following: red eyes, joint pain, muscle aches) after a trip to the risk zone, consult a general practitioner as soon as possible .

The good link: on its official website, the Ministry of Health has compiled a list of repellents and biocides against mosquitoes deemed "effective".

In case of pregnancy, in addition to the precautions listed above, it is also necessary to observe the following advice (especially because of the risk of congenital malformation):

  • Health authorities recommend that pregnant women planning a trip to an area at risk of Zika virus ... postpone their trip. If this is not possible, medical advice must be given before departure,
  • To inform the gynecologist-obstetrician or the midwife when moving to a risk zone,
  • Avoid unprotected sexual intercourse during the trip - especially with a man infected or who may have been infected with the Zika virus,
  • To carry out, 28 days after the return, a serological screening (via a blood test) in order to identify a possible infection by the Zika virus.

To know : there is no specific treatment or vaccine against Zika virus. In case of infection, only symptomatic treatment may be prescribed (analgesics for pain and fever: for example paracetamol).

* The full list on the Government of Canada's official website.


Pasteur Institute of Lille

Ministry of Solidarity and Health

World Health Organization

Read also :

⋙ Mosquitoes carrying a bacterium to limit the spread of Zika

⋙ 20 million mosquitoes released in the wild to eradicate Zika

⋙ Zika virus alters sperm quality in the long term

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