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Zika virus the new health care Boogeyman, now being blamed for vaccine injuries and Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Zika virus

(NaturalNews) The arrival of the Zika virus in the Americas, and concern over its possible link to birth defects, have stirred up a storm of panic in the media. But the truth is that the virus and its effects on the human body are poorly studied, and very little is known about it for certain.

Given that knowledge gap, we can expect alarmist reports over the next few months to blame any and every cryptic health condition on the virus. Most recently, health experts have raised concern about a possible connection between the Zika virus and a paralytic nervous disorder known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

According to the FDA product insert, Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a known potential side effect of flu vaccination.

A devastating condition

Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a poorly understood autoimmune condition in which the body's immune system attacks the nervous system, mistaking it for a virus. In some cases, this can destroy the myelin sheath that insulates nerve endings, leading to muscular paralysis. The syndrome typically occurs following a viral infection, though it has also occurred following flu vaccination.

While potentially debilitating, Guillain-Barre Syndrome is not in itself a fatal disease. However, complications arising from paralysis can easily turn lethal.

"What kills people is being paralyzed in an intensive care unit," said Guillain-Barre expert Kenneth Gorson of Tufts University. "It's the complications from being on a ventilator for long periods of time, the risk of blood clots, wound infections from lack of movement or other numerous medical complications that occur in paralyzed patients. Access to quality care is critical."

Since Zika arrived in the Americas, health officials have noticed an alarming uptick in cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome. The Washington Post recently highlighted the Colombian town of Turbo, with a population of 60,000, that formerly saw about one Guillain-Barre case a year. Since Zika arrived, the town saw five cases in six weeks, three of them fatal. According to the Colombian government, there has been at least one other Guillain-Barre fatality, also connected with Zika.

And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that among just 80 people in the United States confirmed with Zika (contracted abroad), two have developed Guillain-Barre syndrome.

"We are seeing a spike everywhere that we are seeing the Zika virus," said World Health Organization (WHO) neurologist Tarun Dua.

Zika obviously not the only cause

Even if Zika does turn out to be a potential trigger of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, there are still two problems with the media angle that "Zika is causing a surge in Guillain-Barre cases." First of all, Guillain-Barre Syndrome remains almost as poorly understood as Zika itself. Among other things, it remains unclear why only certain viral exposures trigger the condition.

Thus, it is unknown whether Zika is capable of triggering Guillain-Barre directly, or whether it interacts with some other factor, perhaps antibodies to a closely related virus such as dengue or chikungunya.

The other problem with blaming Zika for Guillain-Barre is that rates of the latter condition were increasing long before the Zika outbreak began several months ago. A March 2014 article in the Nebraska Journal Star quotes neurologist Dr. Ana Delgado of the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital as saying that Guillain-Barre rates have been increasing, and are perhaps double the "official" incidence rate of one in 100,000. In fact, the National Institutes of Health are considering revising this figure to one in 50,000.

Something must be triggering this increase, Delgado said.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome due to seasonal flu vaccination is the single most common injury to be compensated through the U.S. vaccine court, according to statistics released in March 2014 (covering the period from November 16, 2013 to February 15, 2014).

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