The Zika virus epidemic has dominated world news’ headlines. The residual effect of the disease – the birth defect microcephaly, which causes abnormally small heads in newborns – is a well-studied link.
And now health authorities have discovered another condition that Zika is potentially linked to.
Health officials confirmed two cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome found in people in the U.S., whom were infected with the Zika virus. Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a condition where the immune system starts attacking the body’s nerves, which in extreme cases, can lead to temporary paralysis and breathing complications.
“I think we can say that the link between Zika and Guillain-Barre looks strong and would not be at all surprising,” says Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We’ve seen similar postinfection complications after many different infections, including some that are quite similar to Zika. That is a link that’s getting stronger.”
The evidence is strong, but officials aren’t jumping the gun again. While there’s a good chance microcephaly is indeed connected to Zika, it isn’t a 100% confirmed diagnosis; more research is needed on both fronts.
The CDC has already done some preliminary studies on GBS in Brazil. The investigation was launched after the Brazil Ministry of Health reported higher than normal cases of GBS amid the Zika outbreak. Again, nothing is definitive, though they found an unusually high amount of GBS cases in younger people in their 20s, 30s and 40s; the disorder typically affects older demographics.