The Zika virus has been in the headlines quite often recently. It is a disease spread by daytime mosquitoes that leads to symptoms including rash, fever, joint pain and red eyes. Currently, it is concentrated in central and south America. However, the disease is spreading into North America and there have been 107 reported cases of the Zika virus in Americans who have travelled from the infected area.
Between October 2013 and April 2014, French Polynesia experienced the largest Zika virus outbreak ever described to date. A study was conducted once a correlation was noticed between areas with the Zika virus and increased cases of the neurological disorder, Guillain-Barre syndrome. Of those who developed Guillain-Barre, 98% of them had Zika virus antibodies, suggesting the virus could be causing the disease.
Guillain-Barre syndrome results in symptoms starting with weakness and tingling in the feet and legs that spread to the upper body. Paralysis can even occur. Overall, it is a condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves and it is triggered by an acute bacterial or viral infection. Treatment is extensive, and includes plasma exchange and immunoglobulin therapy to relieve symptoms. Physical therapy is needed, too.
This newly discovered risk associated with the Zika virus only stresses the importance of preventing its spread. Strategies should be shared on how to avoid daytime mosquitoes and protect yourself. Pharmacists can play a role in this by educating patients in community pharmacy settings on which products work the best to deter mosquitoes and what to look out for as far as early symptoms of the virus.
Read the full study here.
Cao-Lormeau VM, Blake A, Mons S, et.al. Guillain-Barre Syndrome outbreak associated with Zika virus infection in French Polynesia: a case-control study. Lancet. 2016;(published online):1-9