Wed | Sep 26, 2018

French Caribbean facing Zika epidemic, taking extra measures

Published:Thursday | February 4, 2016 | 12:00 AM
A health ministry worker fumigates for Aedes aegypti mosquitoes where carnival celebrations will be held in Panama City.
Pregnant women wait for their monthly medical test at a Guatemalan Social Security maternity hospital in Guatemala City, Tuesday, February 2, 2016.
A health ministry worker fumigates for Aedes aegypti mosquitoes at the Bethania neighborhood in Guatemala City, Tuesday, February 2, 2016.


Two French regions in the Caribbean face an epidemic of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which was just declared a global public health emergency, and France's government is sending extra hospital equipment and preparing extra medical staff to combat it, the health minister

disclosed yesterday.

Marisol Touraine told reporters that Martinique and French Guiana have had 2,500 potential cases and about 100 confirmed Zika cases since mid-December, including 20 pregnant women and two people suffering a temporary paralysis condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome.

"Our system of health and

sanitary alert is fully mobilised," Touraine said. "There are three objectives: to prevent, reinforce monitoring, and anticipate."

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization declared Zika a global public health emergency after being linked to brain deformities in babies in South America. Several thousand cases of microcephaly have been reported in Brazil since October, although researchers have so far not proven a definitive link to the virus. No vaccine exists for Zika.

A few cases have been reported in Guadeloupe and Saint Martin, also part of the French Caribbean. Nine people have come to mainland France with Zika this year, but Touraine said that there is no risk of epidemic on the mainland.

She said that the government would will expand access to testing to include doctors' offices and recommend condom use in the region, where she plans to make a visit later this month to check on the situation.