Has Your Child Developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome After Exposure To Zika? What Are Your Treatment Options?

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Has Your Child Developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome After Exposure To Zika? What Are Your Treatment Options?

14 September 2016
 Categories: Health & Medical , Blog

Although the Zika virus got off to a slow start in the U.S., with the majority of early cases contracted by travelers to Central and South America, locally acquired cases are now beginning to pop up in Florida, Puerto Rico, and other warm-weather locations, potentially putting your child at risk.

Zika is often associated with dangers to pregnant women due to the risk of anencephaly or microcephaly for their growing baby, but it can also cause major problems for children and non-pregnant adults -- notably, the development of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), an auto-immune condition in which the body's own immune defenses attack nerve cells. This can lead to temporary but severe paralysis throughout the body, sometimes even requiring a ventilator until the nerves around your child's lungs and esophagus are able to function on their own. Read on to learn more about your child's treatment options for Zika-triggered GBS, as well as what you can expect his or her future to look like after recovery.

What Are the Treatment Options for GBS? 

GBS is a relatively rare syndrome, but the number of reported cases have shown an uptick with the advent of the Zika virus in these areas. GBS's harsh autoimmune response can be triggered by a virus as ordinary as the common cold -- and because many who are infected with Zika show no symptoms (or have only a mild headache or body aches for a few days), GBS can develop before the person even realizes he or she was exposed to Zika. 

Once GBS is suspected, it's important to seek treatment as quickly as possible. Not only can the nerve and muscle paralysis associated with GBS cause breathing and feeding difficulties that could necessitate a ventilator or feeding tube, even milder cases will need to be treated with intensive physical and occupational therapy to ensure your child regains a full range of motion. Your child will likely also need to undergo plasma or immunoglobulin exchanges to replace his or her "bad" blood with healthier blood that doesn't trigger an autoimmune response.

When Will Your Child Fully Recover from GBS? 

The recovery period often depends on how severe your child's GBS is and how quickly (and aggressively) treatment was pursued. Most who are diagnosed with GBS will make a full recovery, although the process can take up to a year, including months in the hospital. Others may still have some residual weakness in one or more limbs or require assistance with walking long distances. Fortunately, the sooner you take your child to the doctor, the better his or her prognosis will be. If you're curious to learn more about this health threat and your treatment options, visit a neurological doctor similar to Mohsen M. Hamza, M.D.