Por que não me surpreendo mais com as notícias sobre o Brasil?
RIO DE JANEIRO — A mosquito-borne virus that has been linked to severe brain damage in infants may be causing another serious health crisis as well, Brazilian officials and doctors warn: hundreds of cases of a rare syndrome in which patients can be almost completely paralyzed for weeks.
The virus, called Zika, made its way to Brazil recently but is spreading rapidly around Latin America and the Caribbean. Nearly 4,000 cases of brain damage, in which babies were born with unusually small heads, have been registered in Brazil in the past year, and this month American officials advised pregnant women to delay traveling to any of nearly 20 countries in the Western Hemisphere, as well as Puerto Rico, where mosquitoes are spreading the virus.
But disease specialists in Brazil say that the virus may also be causing a surge in another rare condition, the potentially life-threatening Guillain-Barré syndrome, in which a person’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system, leaving some patients unable to move and dependent on life support.
Until recently, the condition was so rare that Brazil’s Health Ministry did not require regional officials to report it. But last year, the authorities in northeast Brazil, the part of the country hit hardest by the Zika virus, counted hundreds of cases of Guillain-Barré, prompting doctors to sound the alarm.
“Guillain-Barré can be a nightmare for those who have it,” said Dr. Wellington Galvão, a hematologist in the city of Maceió in northeast Brazil who treated 43 patients with Guillain-Barré in 2015, up from an average of 10 to 15 cases in previous years. “I estimate that Zika increases by about 20 times the probability that an individual can get Guillain-Barré.”
Shortly after a mosquito infected Patricia Brito with the Zika virus, she knew something was terribly wrong. Soon she could not move her legs. The paralysis soon spread to her arms, her face and the rest of her body, to the point that doctors put her on a ventilator in an intensive care unit for 40 days.
“It was more terrifying than any horror movie,” said Ms. Brito, 20, who works as a cashier at a bakery in Delmiro Gouveia, a city in northeast Brazil. Months after her release from the hospital, Ms. Brito still does physical therapy in an effort to avoid using a wheelchair.
Researchers caution that more studies are needed to prove the link between Zika and Guillain-Barré. A spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States said that “reports must be treated as anecdotal because little pertinent supporting diagnostic information is available.”