Brazil and Colombia are investigating the possibility of the Zika virus being linked with a rise in a rare and sometimes life-threatening nerve condition. According to reports, this condition can lead to paralysis and leave victims on life-support.
Already, experts have tentatively linked the virus to a rash of microcephaly, which is a birth defect that causes baby to be born with abnormal small heads the Guardian reports. Though, the mechanics of how the virus may affect babies are a bit sketchy, few countries in Latin America are already encouraging women to avoid the risk of postponing pregnancies.
The curtail the spread and protect citizens of the United States, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised pregnant women to reconsider making trips to countries where there is an outbreak of the virus. Only on Friday, the disease control body extended the warning to 22 countries; mostly in the Caribbean and Latin America.
According to the Guardian, the nerve disorder leads to muscle weakness which generally starts in the legs and spreads to the arms and face, and can cause numbness, trouble walking and even limb paralysis. The disease can be life-threatening especially when it becomes severe. However, some people have recovered from it after spending a couple of weeks or months receiving medical care.
Guillain-Barré is thought to be rare in Latin America; but is believed to be triggered by an infection, with something related to food poisoning, and occurs when the immune system attacks the body’s own nervous system. However, it is a condition that does not preclude anyone, including the old and the young.
Link between both conditions was first noticed in French Polynesia, where health officials observed a jump Guillain-Barré and microcephaly cases in tandem with an outbreak of Zika.
According to the World Health Organization, authorities in El Salvador reported 46 cases of Guillain-Barré in just five weeks, from 1 December to 6 January Dec. 1 to Jan. 6. The full-year average for the country is 169 cases. Of 22 patients for whom there was information, at least 12 had experienced a rash-fever illness in the 15 days prior.
Authorities in Brazil are investigating a near coincident rise in the two conditions (Guillain-Barré and Zika) that was first noticed in the country in May 2015. There is a general believe that Zika was imported into the country by a tourist who came to Brazil during the last FIFA World Cup in 2014.
During the last rainy season in the North-eastern city of Salvador when there was an outbreak of Zika, the Couto Maia Hospital experienced an unprecedented rise in Guillain-Barré.
“Zika was really bad here from February to July and then all but disappeared in August. In May, June and July, we had 24 patients come in with Guillain-Barré, and none since August,” said Antonio Bandeira, an infectious disease specialist at the hospital. Normal, he only sees two or three such cases in a year.
Most of the patients at the hospital also experienced symptoms that look like Zika, which can include fever and red splotchy skin, Bandeira said.