Zika Virus May be Linked to Surge in Rare Syndrome in Brazil

Simon Romero, Donald G. McNeil Jr. – The New York Times, 01/21/2016

A mosquito-borne virus that has been linked to severe brain damage in infants may be causing another serious health crisis as well, Brazilian officials and doctors warn: hundreds of cases of a rare syndrome in which patients can be almost completely paralyzed for weeks.

The virus, called Zika, made its way to Brazil recently but is spreading rapidly around Latin America and the Caribbean. Nearly 4,000 cases of brain damage, in which babies were born with unusually small heads, have been registered in Brazil in the past year, and this month American officials advised pregnant women to delay traveling to any of nearly 20 countries in the Western Hemisphere, as well as Puerto Rico, where mosquitoes are spreading the virus.

But disease specialists in Brazil say that the virus may also be causing a surge in another rare condition, the potentially life-threatening Guillain-Barré syndrome, in which a person’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system, leaving some patients unable to move and dependent on life support.

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