CDC Warns Of Zika Virus — Linked To Autoimmune Disease

Public health officials stated Monday that more discoveries have been made about the Zika virus since the White House requested almost $2 billion dollars from Congress to combat the virus and its potential impact in America.

“Most of what we’ve learned is not reassuring,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought.”

USA Today reports that the potential geographic range of the mosquitos reaches further north and affects 30 states, not the initial reported 12, and that it has been confirmed that it can be spread sexually.

“This is a very unusual virus that we can’t pretend to know everything about it that we need to know,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “I’m not an alarmist and most of you who know me know that I am not, but the more we learn about the neurological aspects, the more we look around and say this is very serious.”

Now, according to Science Daily, the Zika virus is associated with another brain disorder that attacks the brain’s myelin, similar to multiple sclerosis.

The American Academy of Neurology will be releasing a small study they have done on the virus in Vancouver, Canada, on April 15 to April 21.

“Though our study is small, it may provide evidence that in this case the virus has different effects on the brain than those identified in current studies,” said study author Maria Lucia Brito Ferreira, MD, with Restoration Hospital in Recife, Brazil. “Much more research will need to be done to explore whether there is a causal link between Zika and these brain problems.”

Zika Map
[Photo Credit CDC/ AP Images]

During the study, researchers monitored people who visited a hospital in Recife reporting symptoms compatible with the virus from December 2014 to June 2015. Six of the patients developed symptoms consistent with autoimmune disorders. Researchers saw 151 cases with neurological manifestations in a year’s time.

“This doesn’t mean that all people infected with Zika will experience these brain problems. Of those who have nervous system problems, most do not have brain symptoms,” said Ferreira. “However, our study may shed light on possible lingering effects the virus may be associated within the brain.”

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“At present, it does not seem that ADEM cases are occurring at a similarly high incidence of the GBS cases, but these findings from Brazil suggest that clinicians should be vigilant for the possible occurrence of ADEM and other immune-mediated illnesses of the central nervous system,” said James Sejvar, MD, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Of course, the remaining question is ‘why’-why does Zika virus appear to have this strong association with GBS and potentially other immune/inflammatory diseases of the nervous system? Hopefully, ongoing investigations of Zika virus and immune-mediated neurologic disease will shed additional light on this important question.”

According to Live Science, ADEM is similar to multiple sclerosis, however, people with MS will often have many attacks through life with people with ADEM typically have one attack with a recovery rate of about six months.

The Monday briefing at the White House emanated on the alarming reality of the growing risk of the virus and the need for more funding for research.

“I told the White House I’d be supportive of a supplemental if they could show me where the money goes and what it could do,” said Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate subcommittee responsible for foreign aid.

Read more about the Zika virus here.

[Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images]