Issue: How to combat the ZIKA virus?
Chair or president: Sarah Gillet; Benjamin PHILLIPS; Mikolaj RACHER; Alexandre RIOU
The Zika virus is a Flavivirus transmitted by mosquitos of the Aedes genus. It is spread across Asia and Africa and has recently emerged in central America and South America. The disease it causes manifests itself three to twelve days after the sting of the carrier insect, through different symptoms: fever, headaches, skin rash, fatigue, muscular and joint pains… Silent with most infected people, it mostly stays benign, and can last up to a week. With the fetus, transmitted to the pregnant woman, the virus, on the other hand, could be the origin of a severe malformation, microcephaly, or responsible of an irreversible mental retardation. Currently, there is no vaccine or specific treatment of the viral Zika disease. The only available treatments are symptomatic. Today, the epidemic is much less significant as in the beginning of 2016. As of November 2016, Zika is not a international public health emergency anymore, a status that was given to it in February of 2016. The infection caused by the Zika arbovirus is mostly well tolerated, often asymptomatic.
Definition of key terms
Arbovirus: virus that is transmitted mainly by blood-sucking insects such as mosquitoes, ticks…
Microcephaly: anomaly that consists of an underdeveloped skull, leading to disorders and a psychological underdevelopment.
The virus and its symptoms, its means of transmission
In 70 to 80% of cases, the Zika virus-infected people develop no symptoms. As for the rest, the developed symptoms are more flu-like, i.e. headaches, body aches, fever, fatigue. In addition, other symptoms can be developed, making the diagnosis more difficult (as the virus is in the same region as that of dengue and chikungunya). It can go from swelling of the hands and feet to a pain behind the eye, digestive disorders and conjunctivitis.
In the majority of cases, hospitalization is not required. Despite this the virus Zika can have serious consequences. For instance, among pregnant women, this can lead to serious irreparable brain abnormalities in the fetus and cause a disease called microcephaly, that is to say, a genetic malformation of the head of the new-born (their heads are smaller than normal) causing a delay in mental development.
In addition, with certain people this can lead to progressive paralysis of the respiratory muscles.
This virus is transmitted through mosquitos (tiger mosquito of Asia, Aedes aegypti of Africa). Indeed, the mosquito draws blood when it stings someone. When one of these mosquitoes unfortunately sting a person carrier of the virus, the mosquito will transmit the virus to someone else by stinging them. Symptoms appear 3 to 12 days after the sting. However in the meantime, the person can still spread its virus to other mosquitoes if they’re again stung. Because of this quick and easy transmission, globalization made the virus a significant threat because it can be spread across the country without being noticed, if there are no symptoms. The virus is also transmitted through unprotected intercourse
The virus issue
The virus is important mainly because of microcephaly. There are some important correlations suspecting that zika may be at the origin of this anomaly. Microcephaly may appear if a woman carrier of the virus becomes pregnant. This is even more serious because a woman can receive the virus through intercourse. It is the possibility of microcephaly that makes Zika harmful. Indeed, there have been less than 10 deaths due to the virus in Brazil, one of the countries most affected by the virus.
The main issue related to the people is the possibility that some newborns have an anomaly preventing a good psychological development. The risk of microcephaly for a fetus whose mother was infected by Zika is estimated at 1%. The child will not follow normal growth, which is difficult for their families.
Following the big epidemic that occurred in 2016 in Brazil, a major campaign against the spread of the virus was made. There is a big economic issue around the virus, since it takes some research to create a vaccine. Please also check all the effects of the virus. Sanofi, the main group doing research, received $ 43.2 million to finance the development of a vaccine. In 2016, there was also an economic issue related to tourism, because the virus was spread across Brazil at the Olympic Games. This issue of tourism remains today, because it is not advisable to travel to certain countries due to Zika. It is also costly to make the diagnosis of the virus by blood and urine sampling. (RT - PCR)
The issue at the social level is mainly characterized by the need for prevention and awareness of the general public. One must inform people of the risks of Zika, but also keep in mind that the virus can be transmitted sexually. Because of virus, women are going to be less inclined to have children. Contraception is directly related to the virus, and is a subject that needs to be addressed.
Countries and organizations concerned
The main countries affected are Latin American countries (more than 3-4 million probable cases of infection). Brazil recorded 1.5 million reported cases and 3174 cases of microcephaly in infants linked to the Zika virus contracted by the mother. This contrasts to 160 cases per year on average of previous years. In general, Brazil is a country very much affected by the presence of mosquitoes. Colombia is the second country most affected by the virus after the Brazil, with 22.612 cases confirmed on January 31, 2016, including 2824 pregnant women. In addition, in many areas such as the United States, the south of Europe, central African countries and East Asian countries present many favorable characteristics to the development of the "Tiger mosquito", the main transmitter of the virus. Contrary to scientific predictions, the Zika outbreak has not spread in Africa, even though the Zika virus was identified there in 1947. In Europe a few cases were reported, but they are mainly tourists from Latin America.
In view of this, the WHO declared in February 2016 that the Zika virus is "an international public health emergency."
Link, to see your country’s situation [English]
Contrary to scientific predictions, the Zika outbreak did not spread in Africa although the Zika virus was identified there in 1947
It should be noted that there is still no vaccine against Zika but that in June 2016, research carried out at the Pasteur Institute lead to the discovery of antibodies that could effectively combat the Zika virus. These results suggest that a vaccine could emerge. But now, it is important that actions against Zika are focused on prevention, before infection of the disease. In order to achieve this it requires prevention against mosquito bites by wearing clothing covering, with anti-insect screens, and using mosquito repellent products. One must also attack the breeding sites. Thus, an important solution against Zika is to raise awareness against the virus and to ensure that people have access to aid against mosquitos.
Because the virus is transmitted sexually, one must offer to people means of contraception, and inform them of the danger of sexual intercourse because of the virus.
For the non serious symptoms of Zika, it is sufficient to rest and drink enough, and take medication for pain and possibly fever.
The public needs to have access to testing centers so that people can know if they are infected.
In short, to act against the virus, WHO must verify that an order of priority is set up to:
reach the most affected countries first;
verify that research is ongoing;
check that communication is ensured to warn the population of the risks of Zika;
help provide equipment against the spread of the virus.