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Doctors: Upsurge in paralysis condition accompanies Zika
Published in 16-2-2016
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Balza is a patient at the public University Hospital in Cucuta, at the epicenter of the Colombian outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Alarm over the Zika epidemic spreading across the Americas has been chiefly over birth defects, but frontline physicians believe a surge in Guillain-Barre cases may also be related. The syndrome typically strikes after a bacterial or viral infection, such as influenza, HIV or dengue, though its cause can't always be determined. Like Balza, many patients never showed the characteristic symptoms of Zika fever, rashes, joint pain and conjunctivitis. Guillain-Barre cases believed to be linked to the virus have killed three people in recent weeks in Colombia and health officials have attributed another three Guillian-Barre deaths in Venezuela to suspected Zika infections. Reporting is not compulsory, so the government's partial figure of 1,868 cases requiring hospitalization last year is a sketchy parameter. WHO said all 42 cases recorded in the Pacific archipelago tested positive for Zika as well as dengue fever, which is also currently present in Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and other Zika-affected countries. Of 18 countries participating in a clinical study launched by Dutch physicians in 2012, only two are in Latin America: Across the region, investigators were simply unable to get government funding to participate, said Dr. Ken Gorson, a Tufts University neurologist and president-elect of an international foundation that combats Guillain-Barre.  The three Guillain-Barre deaths that the country's Health Ministry attributed to Zika on Feb. 5 have not yet been confirmed by laboratory tests, said spokesman Ricardo Amortegui. The 68-year retired school administrator developed fever, rashes and muscle pain while celebrating Christmas with her family in the hot lowland state of Anzoategui. Doctors diagnosed Guillain-Barre with a spinal tap they assumed she had Zika earlier and suggested that the relatives obtain immunoglobulin, an expensive treatment that pools healthy antibodies from hundreds of donors.