Experts Study Link Between Zika Virus and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (Video)

(Video caption: Heber Varela, M.D., a neurologist at Baptist Health Neuroscience Center, discusses Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a neurological disorder, and its connection to the Zika virus, a disease carried by mosquitoes.)

A recent study has linked the Zika virus — a mosquito-carried disease — to Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a disease of the nervous system that can cause muscle weakness or temporary paralysis, according to international health officials.

Guillain-Barré syndrome is an autoimmune disease in which the patient’s own immune system attacks nerve cells in the arms, legs and other areas of the body, says  Heber Varela, M.D., a neurologist at Baptist Health Neuroscience Center, with offices at Baptist Hospital and West Kendall Baptist Hospital. GBS can affect all age groups, especially men over the age of 50.

Zika, already prevalent in much of Latin America and the Caribbean, is believed to cause microcephaly when contracted in pregnancy. This is a serious birth defect in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and other health concerns.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is spreading the Zika virus in much of Latin America and the Caribbean, will likely become increasingly abundant across much of the southern and eastern United States as the weather warms, according to a statement released by mosquito and disease experts from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado.

Major U.S. cities, including Miami, New York City and Los Angeles, could face outbreaks of the Zika virus this summer, with the East Coast facing the biggest threat from warmer-than-normal temperatures, scientists say. Miami, along with much of South Florida, faces the highest risk of a Zika outbreak, a new report concludes.

International experts continue to explore the link between Zika and other conditions, including Guillain-Barré syndrome. Dr. Varela spoke to the Baptist Health News Team about GBS and the Zika virus. Watch now.

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