The Zika Virus Has Ushered in a Spike of Temporary Paralysis Cases

The Zika Virus Has Ushered in a Spike of Temporary Paralysis Cases
Science & Medicine

We have known that the Zika virus could cause Guillain-Barre syndrome, but we’re just now seeing a concerning spike in parts of the world where Zika is known to inhabit. In Venezuela alone, the disease has increased by 877%. [1]

Guillain-Barre is a neurological disorder that usually occurs after the onset of an infection, and in this case, after becoming infected with the Zika virus. It causes muscle weakness, tingling, and numbness in your extremities and issues with coordination. Some people may develop temporary paralysis. While the majority of people affected make a full recovery from Guillain-Barre, many people will have to spend months in the hospital in order to be fully rid of the disorder. [2]

While the Centers for Disease Control says that the Zika virus does indeed show a strong association with developing Guillain-Barre, the agency has not yet made the statement that there is a causation. However, researchers in French Polynesia have found that 1 in 4,000 people with Zika develop symptoms of Guillain-Barre.

The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study that provides further evidence of Guillain-Barre and its association with Zika. Researchers have found a pattern showing that in each country where Guillain-Barre seemed to increase, there was also an outbreak of the Zika virus.

Doctors emphasize that even those with asymptomatic Zika may go on to develop Guillain-Barre.

This could be a big issue, as many countries where the Zika virus has spread are those without substantial medical means. Many of those with Guillain-Barre require breathing assistance or time in the ICU while they make their recovery, and some countries do not have the capacity to treat an influx of patients with such needs.

Dr. Kenneth C. Gorson, professor of neurology at Tufts University School of Medicine, stated:

“This is a substantial public health burden for countries that may not have well-developed health systems in place. They have to have enough ventilators and I.C.U. beds.” [1]

Reports show that Guillian-Barre is occurring at least two times more often than normal in some countries, and as much as 9.8 times higher than usual in other countries. [3]


[1] New York Times

[2] NHS

[3] NBC News