Can Zika Cause Paralysis? It Has Some Potentially Scary Links

The spread of the Zika virus has certainly sparked concern among health officials and people around the world, as possible links to other serious health conditions continue to be uncovered. The virus, which is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, through pregnancy, and occasionally through sexual transmission, is linked to microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), according to a scientific consensus reported by the World Health Organization (WHO). With the growing list of health problems associated with the Zika virus, many are wondering if Zika can cause paralysis, among other risks. Its links to GBS, could help answer that question.

Zika's purported link to GBS, a disorder in which the body's immune system causes damage to one's nerve cells, could potentially cause weakness in the limbs and even paralysis. Scientists, public health officials, and researchers have been investigating the syndrome's relationship with the Zika virus disease to confirm that connection and the results, though not entirely conclusive, have yielded some interesting facts.

According to research by WHO, 13 countries or territories worldwide have reported to have an increase in GBS cases, in relation to a presence of the Zika virus. Science Magazine cited a case-controlled study published by The Lancet, that showed an increase in GBS cases in French Polynesia between October 2013 and April 2014 – a time period that also showed a large Zika virus outbreak in the area.

Since GBS can cause paralysis, reports that suggest an increase in GBS is related to the Zika virus, and that could put paralysis on the list of concerning health risks that are linked it.

Similarly concerning information on the Zika virus, such as how it's spreading and possible links, seems to be coming out every other day. On Tuesday, for instance, officials reported that the Zika virus will "likely" start to spread to the United States. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a press conference Tuesday that it was "very likely" that Americans would see local outbreaks of the virus in the coming months, according to NBC News. But Fauci noted that such outbreaks in the U.S would be constrained, according to ABC News.

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As for potential vaccines in the future, Fauci noted that it's being worked on.

"The thing that people are most interested in, is the issue of a vaccine," Fauci said at a press conference, according to MSNBC. He added,

We will be putting a vaccine into human study in September of 2016. We're working on it right now. Thats a study on safety. [...] Don't confuse that with a vaccine that's ready to be used. This is the first testing of a vaccine in September, we'll probably know if it's safe by the beginning of 2017.

As new information on Zika is revealed, it's important for the public to remain informed on the virus that was once perceived as a low-threat outbreak.