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Zika virus tied to neurological woes in adults

Staff Writer | August 16, 2017
Adults infected with the Zika virus can develop a number of serious neurological conditions, a new study finds.
Zika virus
Disease   Muscle weakness and paralysis
Until now, the most troubling Zika-related illness in adults has been Guillain-Barre syndrome, which causes muscle weakness and paralysis.

A review of 35 Zika-infected patients in Brazil with neurological symptoms found that most had Guillain-Barre. But other neurological conditions were also discovered, most often inflammation and swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

"Overall, the risk of Guillain-Barre for a person who contracts Zika is probably still very low, but it's important to know there's neurological conditions associated with Zika virus," said study co-author Dr. Jennifer Frontera. She's chief of neurology for NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn.

Frontera and other infectious disease experts said pregnant women still carry the most risk from Zika infection, since the virus can cause devastating neurological birth defects such as microcephaly.

Michael Osterholm is director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in Minneapolis.

"Now we're realizing that adults may be impacted," he said. "There are clinical implications, as was well demonstrated in this paper."

The research team tracked patients who were referred to an academic hospital in Rio de Janeiro that specializes in treating neurological illnesses.