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Zika Strongly Linked To Guillain-Barré Syndrome – Temporary Paralysis

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A rise in the number of patients suffering temporary paralysis in countries that recently experienced outbreaks of the Zika virus has led scientists to believe there might be a strong link between the two.

Seven countries where the now-infamous Zika has caused an epidemic likewise saw more cases of a kind of temporary paralysis called Guillain-Barré syndrome, the New York Times reports.

Guillain-Barré syndrome can be caused by many factors, including infections from viruses other than Zika. Researchers in French Polynesia analyzing Zika estimated that one in 4,000 people could develop the syndrome.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that Zika is “strongly associated” with Guillain-Barré, but has not explicitly said that the virus caused the condition. Researchers now say this provides growing evidence to confirm the theory, pointing out that in each country where Zika infections peaked, cases of Guillain-Barré also rose.

Dr. Marcos A. Espinal, the lead author of the study and director of communicable diseases at the Pan American Health Organization, says,

It’s pretty obvious that in all seven sites there is a clear relationship.

The organization gathered data on Zika and Guillain-Barré incidences.

Health authorities in Venezuela expected only 70 cases of Guillain-Barré in the first quarter of 2016 but saw 684 cases as the mosquito-borne virus spread in the country.

In Colombia, where Zika was a problem for five months, health authorities recorded 320 cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, more than three times the expected 100. In El Salvador, Zika reached its worst from September 2015 to March 2016, and Guillain-Barré cases went from 92 to 184.

Both suspected and confirmed Zika patients were included in the research. On the whole, Espinal and his team found increases in Guillain-Barré incidences up to 10 times the normal volume. Around 500 million people in South America and the Caribbean are at a risk for Zika infection, so even small jumps in paralysis reports are a big concern.

The Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela, Suriname, Colombia and Bahia, Brazil reported a collective total of around 1,500 temporary paralysis incidences. The syndrome was 28% higher in men, and chances for contracting it heightened with age for both sexes, the research stated.

Temporary paralysis is a neurological complication that could arise from dengue infection — another mosquito-borne disease — as well. But Espinal’s research found no similar links between Guillain-Barré and dengue.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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