Minister Marisol Touraine
4 February 2016

Zika epidemic: the current situation

France is concerned about the Zika epidemic, with Martinique and Guyana recently reaching epidemic levels. Meeting with elected representatives from the West Indies on 3 February, Minister of Social Affairs, Health and Women’s Rights Marisol Touraine confirmed the health warning and the full readiness of our health system.

Content published under the Government Valls II from 2014 26th August to 2016 11th February
When meeting with the West Indian representatives, Marisol Touraine outlined the issues associated with the Zika epidemic. The Health Minister outlined two priorities:
  • to deal with the concerns of those living in the West Indies, and of pregnant women in particular;
  • to work with local authorities to step up vector control in order to eliminate the breeding grounds of the disease-carrying mosquitoes. 
The WHO has declared an "international public health emergency", notably with a view to mobilising the research resources needed to fight the epidemic. Our health and health warning systems are in a state of full readiness, and additional human and material resources have been deployed to the areas concerned. Following an alert issued by the United States, the High Council for Public Health will in the coming days announce whether it recommends the use of condoms to pregnant women and women of child-bearing age living or staying in endemic areas, or whose sexual partner is suspected of being infected.
Martinique and Guyana recently reached epidemic levels, with 2,287 and 245 reported cases respectively, around a hundred of which have been confirmed. Ten indigenous cases have also been confirmed in Guadeloupe and one in Saint Martin, whilst a further nine imported cases of Zika have been treated in mainland France. A total of 20 pregnant women have tested positive for the Zika virus in French overseas departments in the Americas since the start of the epidemic. These women are being closely monitored, and no malformations have yet been detected. Two individuals with Guillain Barré Syndrome have also been treated, one of whom remains in intensive care at the Fort-de-France university hospital. 

Our health and health warning systems are in a state of full readiness. There are three objectives that we must pursue: preventing, closely monitoring and planning.

1. Preventing, first and foremost

  • An opinion by the National Professional Obstetrics and Gynaecology Council recommends the use of a condom for pregnant women or women of child-bearing age in endemic areas, or whose sexual partner is suspected of being infected.
  • The Minister has asked the High Council for Public Health to confirm these recommendations for France over the coming days. The broadcasting authority (CSA) has been asked to circulate this information in the local media through radio and later TV advertisements.
  • Pregnant women who can postpone travelling are advised to avoid infected areas.

2. Closer monitoring

  • Health professionals have been informed since the start of the epidemic of the need to more closely monitor pregnant women, or those wishing to have children. All necessary examinations are being covered by the health insurance system.
  • The Biomedicine Agency (ABM) recently advised health establishments in the departments concerned to postpone gamete donations and medically-assisted procreation (MAP), including where those returning to mainland France from an affected area are concerned. 

3. Planning

  • The Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Agency (EPRUS) has prepared teams of additional health professionals in the event that the situation at local level calls for such reinforcements. 50 reservists, including a number of resuscitators, are ready to be deployed if necessary. The aim is to form a series of medical teams (4-5 intensive care doctors and 6-8 nurses) able to staff a unit of four intensive care beds.
  • Alongside the EPRUS assessment mission, the intensive care equipment for treating serious neurological syndromes in the hospitals concerned has also been improved. As of the start of next week, six additional life-support machines will be delivered to the university hospital in Martinique and two additional life-support machines to Cayenne hospital in Guyana.
Marisol Touraine will visit the French departments in the Americas to review the situation before the end of the month.
See also the infographic entitled ‘Zika virus: protecting ourselves against it'