The first study providing evidence for Zika virus infection causing Guillain-Barré syndrome has been released in The Lancet. Researchers looked at a Zika outbreak in French Polynesia between October, 2013 and April, 2014 and found an increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome in that area during that same time period.
Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist Dr. Pritish Tosh says, "The risk is very small however, there can be some association between Zika infection and subsequent development of Guillain-Barré syndrome and further evidence suggests there may be a link. It needs to be investigated further."
Watch Dr. Pritish Tosh discuss Zika:
"With the new data suggesting a possible link between Zika virus infection and Guillain-Barré syndrome, it is important to realize Guillain-Barré syndrome is still very rare — even after an infection that could lead to it," says Dr. Tosh. "We need to continue putting our focus with Zika virus on pregnant women and their unborn children."
Zika virus, which also has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly, is primarily transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus), which are also responsible for spreading dengue and chikungunya viruses.
Dr. Tosh says it is important to find ways to control the mosquito population. Such ways which include cleaning up garbage, removing stagnant water sources and use of insecticides.
Most people who are infected with Zika virus — 80 percent — show no symptoms, and 20 percent have mild symptoms that can include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis.