Is There a Possible Link Between the Zika Virus and Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare disorder that attacks the body’s nervous system.

For anyone who has gotten Guillain-Barre Syndrome, the symptoms begin swiftly. It causes paralysis and symptoms typically begin at the feet and then spread to the rest of the body. Sometimes it can affect vital organs such as the lungs. In this case, many patients have to have a tracheotomy placed in order to breathe.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) acknowledged a link between the Zika Virus and Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

The Zika virus outbreak occurred in Latin American countries in 2014 and 2015. During this time, the number of people with Guillain-Barre Syndrome increased about 19 percent. In El Salvador alone, there were 104 more cases in a single month. This is in comparison to an average of 170 cases of the syndrome each year.

This is an astonishing difference. Dr. Michael Wilson, who is an assistant professor of neurology at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, developed a timeline that showed a rise of people diagnosed with the syndrome just as Zika cases started to dwindle down.

Two hypotheses remain:

  1. The Zika virus has caused Guillain-Barre Syndrome decades before the outbreak. The only difference is that no one made a connection between the two.
  2. The virus mutated.

Researchers are still not sure why people develop Guillain-Barre Syndrome. But, they do agree that it is most likely triggered by either a viral or bacterial infection.

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