Nearly 100 Colombians suffering from the Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare nerve disorder, also have symptoms of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, Colombia’s National Health Institute has said.
Colombian health authorities recently announced that three people who had been infected with the Zika virus had died after developing the Guillain-Barre syndrome, the first time health officials had said the Zika virus could cause deaths.
“We have confirmed and attributed three deaths to Zika,” Martha Lucia Ospina, head of Colombia’s National Health Institute, told reporters during a news conference on Feb. 5.
“In this case, the three deaths were preceded by Guillain-Barre syndrome,” said Ospina, an epidemiologist, adding that six further deaths were under investigation for a possible link to Zika.
Colombian Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria has said there was a “causal connection” between Zika, the Guillain-Barre disorder and the three deaths.
Guillain-Barre is a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system and damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.
The symptoms can last a few weeks or several months and while most people recover fully from Guillain-Barre, some have permanent damage, and in rare cases people have died from the syndrome, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).