Colombia sees link of Zika with three deaths and Guillain-Barre syndrome

Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria informed about a connection.

(Photo: SPECIAL)
English 05/02/2016 14:29 Bogotá Actualizada 14:29
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Colombia's health minister said on Friday he believes there is a connection between the Zika virus, Guillain-Barre syndrome and the deaths of three Colombians, as the virus continues its rapid spread throughout the Americas.

Colombia has around 20,500 confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne virus, including more than 2,100 pregnant women, making it one of the most affected countries in the region after Brazil.

Zika was considered a mild disease until recently, but concern rose after Brazil reported several thousand cases of a serious birth defect that scientists believe may be linked to Zika infection in pregnancy. The condition, called microcephaly, means babies are born with abnormally small heads and may have developmental problems.

Scientists are also investigating a possible link between Zika and Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare but serious condition that can cause paralysis.

Although scientists have not proved that Zika causes either condition, Colombian Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria told journalists on Friday that "there is a causal connection between Zika, Guillain-Barre and the death of three Colombians, one in San Andrés and another two in Turbo, Antioquia."

He did not elaborate further on the connection between Zika and Guillain-Barre. The three patients died last week after being treated at a clinic in Medellin, the Andean country's second-largest city, the minister said.

Unreported cases and patients with no symptoms of infection could mean that there are between 80,000 and 100,000 current Zika infections in Colombia, Gaviria said. The health ministry expects to see up to 650,000 cases this year.

Most people who are infected with Zika show no symptoms and those that do have a mild illness, with a fever, rash and red eyes.

Some other governments in the region have also drawn connections between the virus and Guillain-Barre. Venezuelan authorities said last week there are around 255 cases of Guillain-Barre that are potentially linked to Zika.

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