New evidence links Zika as cause of paralysis, brain disorders and death

  • By Zeenat Aktar

Why do we know so little about the dangers of Zika?

 

A connection has been made between Zika and multiple secondary brain disorders. Dr Adriana Melo one of the leading researchers into the current Zika outbreak which has swept across the Americas stated that the cases she has seen “are never microcephaly alone” but include other complications such as dilated ventricles, calcification and contractures to the joints.

Zika is now being linked directly to alarming number of cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome which can cause devastating paralysis. Scientists elsewhere in the wolrd cautious of making a direct connection between the two, but on the frontline the panic, and apparent link is real and growing.

Imagine losing control over the muscles in your body. It starts with pins and needles in your feet. You lose feeling in your legs. Then you can’t even blink. Victims of Guillain-Barre can often show the whites of their eyes after losing control of their eye muscles, as if they are the living dead, it can also  paralyze the circulatory and respiratory muscles meaning you can no longer breathe.

Fabian Medina, 22 and a father of one and expecting a new baby any day now should be in the prime of his life but he has the vitality of a man of 90. He’s recovering from the paralysis after two weeks in intensive care. Doctors in Colombia believe that Medina contracted Guillain-Barre syndrome after being bitten by a Zika infected Aedes mosquito.

His wife Karen, three months pregnant, has also had Zika; the symptoms were mild, the consequence to her baby as yet unknown. “My fear, is that on the news they say your baby can be deformed. I am really frightened and pray to God that nothing bad will happen to it.”

The birth of a new child should be a joyous occasion yet what might be seen when a baby is born is causing great anxiety across all of the Americas: terrifying birth deformities where babies are born missing the front part of their brains, known as microcephaly.

Zika has infected over 20 countries across central and southern America including the US state of Texas. It is feared that Zika could spread to Europe due to the prevalence of the Aedes mosquito in both continents as well as a heavy flow of people between the two regions. This year the Brazilian city of Rio De Janeiro is to host the Olympics, with many athletes and entire nations discussing non attendance over safety concerns following the Zika outbreak.

Earlier this year it was confirmed in the US state of Texas that Zika can also be spread via bodily fluids from one human to another such as through sexual intercourse.


Z.Aktar@theinternational.org.uk