If birth defects from a mosquito bite weren’t enough to make your skin crawl, there are now findings that suggest the linking of a brain disorder among older adults that are infected with the zika virus. A new study shows that the Zika virus may provoke an attack on the central nervous system. This only adds to the growing list of neurological complications associated with the Zika virus.
Public health officials are concerned about the impact that the Zika virus may pose on the United States. Dr. Ann Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview that “Most of what we’ve learned is not reassuring.” Adding that, “Everything that we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought.”
The autoimmune syndrome called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, or ADEM, attacks the brain and spinal chord. This new discovery also suggests that the disease can attack the central nervous system in adults as well. Typically, ADEM occurs after infection when the white protective coat around the nerve fibers is damaged. This nerve damage results in numbness, weakness, loss of balance and vision, and other symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis.
Zika has been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the peripheral nerves outside the brain and spinal chord. This can cause temporary paralysis, and in some cases, make patients require a respirator for breathing. The most poignant effect of this autoimmune disorder is microcephaly, which is usually defined by abnormally small heads in infants. Microcephaly is also known to cause developmental delays later in life, and is a major concern among expecting mothers.
The Next Step for Zika
Right now, the CDC is using remaining funds ($510 million) from the Ebola epidemic to research the Zika virus.
Tips for Preventing The Zika Virus
- Wear mosquito repellent with DEET, which is safe for pregnant women
- Dump any standing water
- Use a condom during intercourse
- Avoid traveling South where the virus is prevalent