Study finds possible link between Zika and neurological disorder
AUSTIN, Texas —
There are 18 confirmed Zika cases in Texas, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Some of the state testing is currently happening at a lab in Austin.
Now, a new study suggests there's a possible association between Zika virus and Guillain-Barre Syndrome. The study was based off of an October 2013 - Apil 2014 Zika outbreak in French Polynesia. During the same timeframe the country experienced an increase in GBS cases. Researchers found some patients who became ill with Zika developed GBS symptoms about six days later.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a neurological disorder that one Williamson County woman knows too well.
"[I] got out of the shower in the morning and just totally collapsed to the floor," recalls Barbra Sonnen-Hernandez. What she thought was a stroke was actually a rare and extreme case of GBS. The disorder put her in a coma for 4 months and ICU for six months. She was hospitalized for a year in 2008.
"Not able to move... paralyzed from head to toe. I couldn't see. I couldn't speak. I couldn't hear," Sonnen-Hernandez says.
A new study published February 29 suggests Zika could be associated with GBS. The study estimates 1 in every 4,000 people with Zika will come down with GBS.
"It's not necessarily the Zika virus specifically causing Guillain-Barre, but your body's response to the Zika virus then causing the Guillain-Barre-type symptoms," explains Ross Tobleman, emergency medical director at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Round Rock. Tobleman says GBS is more common after viral illnesses.
"The body starts to attack itself for whatever reason," says Tobleman. What doctors aren't sure of is where the virus comes from. "We don't know what causes it," he says.
Years of research leads Sonnen-Hernandez to believe a dormant case of malaria in her father's blood stream was passed down to her and made her more susceptible to GBS.
"I don't know. It's a possibility. I'm still trying to work with the CDC right now to see," Sonnen-Hernandez says. She's worried if Zika becomes endemic to the United States she could get it again.
"That is the fear that I have for previous GBS patients. Where do we stand with that?" she asks.
While there is no evidence of local Zika transmission by Texas mosquitoes, state health officials are implementing Zika prevention plans in anticipation of increased mosquito activity this spring and summer.