For the first time, the Zika virus has been contracted twice in France’s Var department and the health authorities have called for vigilance.
On Monday 21 October, the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Regional Health Agency (ARS) announced a second indigenous case of Zika-virus infection in Hyères (Var), in the same area as a case reported earlier this month. The two people, whose symptoms date back to August, have been cured, ARS said.
The locally acquired cases relate to infections contracted as a result of mosquito bites in metropolitan France, as opposed to cases that have been imported from people who have reported the disease in the country on their return from a journey in which they have been bitten.
The two cases of Hyères are not only the only ones observed so far in metropolitan France, but according to the Directorate-General for Health (DGS) probably also the first documented cases in Europe. The latter adds in a statement that research is continuing to identify possible new cases and to prevent the spread of the disease.
Symptoms similar to those of the Flu
In addition, since 1 August 2019, seven indigenous dengue cases in Vallauris, in the Alpes-Marítimos and two other cases have been identified in Calluire, in the Rhone, namely the first confirmed indigenous cases of dengue in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
Dengue and Zika are transferred from person to person via a tiger mosquito bite (Aedes). The subgenus present in France, Aedes albopictus, originates from South-East Asia. It appeared in 2004 in the French motherland and is now permanently established in 51 departments.
Since the symptoms of dengue and Zika may resemble those of a flu-like disease, they are difficult to associate with these diseases and are therefore not systematically mentioned, notes the DGS. “This is why health professionals have been informed by the ARS, in particular those called upon to take care of pregnant women, as the Zika virus can, in rare cases, cause birth defects’ at birth.
The authorities also call on people returning from a country where dengue, chikungunya or Zika viruses circulate’ to effectively protect themselves against mosquitoes within two weeks of their return, in particular in case of fever, so as not to encourage the spread of the disease and to consult their doctor without delay and report any recent journeys.