My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How the Zika Virus now connected to Microcephaly, acute myelitis and Guillain-Barré syndrome

Friday, March 11, 2016

How the Zika Virus now connected to Microcephaly, acute myelitis and Guillain-Barré syndrome

The Zika Virus just got a little more frightening.

Turns out the Zika Virus may be neurotropic, attacking the nervous system of some patients as noted in the article “Zika 'link' to new, paralysing disease: report”, published Wednesday, March 09, 2016, The Jamaica Observer.

A report published in the Lancet medical journal speaks of a 15-y-o girl diagnosed in January 2016 with the Zika Virus. However, the doctors noticed that she had acute myelitis.

Also called Transverse myelitis, this condition manifests as inflammation of the spinal cord and causes discomfort for the patient with the following symptoms:

1.      Partial paralysis
2.      Limb weakness
3.      Intense pain

But what caught the doctors at the Pointe-a-Pitre hospital in Guadeloupe who treated the 15-y-o girl was the high levels of the Zika Virus in her cerebrospinal fluid, blood and urine as noted in “Zika Virus can cause paralyzing disorder – study”, published 9 March, 2016, RT.

This showed up in her medical results nine days after the symptoms of the Zika Virus began to appear. What made this link even more compelling was when the doctors checked the 15-y-o girl medical records as well as did further tests and determined that she was no suffering from other diseases that could also cause the symptoms of acute myelitis namely:

1.      Shingles
2.      Chicken pox
3.      Herpes Virus, were ruled out

Albeit this isn't proof of a link as no mechanism was demonstrated, it suggests that the Zika Virus may be correlated with neurotropic conditions such as Transverse myelitis. It is very possible that the Zika Virus can cause acute myelitis, given that the herpes Virus can cause the condition, suggesting Viruses are associated with this disorder.

Please note that correlation isn't causation; correlation has to have a definite mechanism to connect suspected cause in the hypothesis and the effect before it can be considered causation. But it's interesting as there is already a connection established between the Zika Virus and Microcephaly.

Zika Virus and acute myelitis - Link to Microcephaly and other Nervous system conditions

This based on a study done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a Brazilian biotechnology company in the northeastern states of Bahia and Paraíba as noted in the article “New Evidence supports Zika-Microcephaly connection”, published 19 February 2016 by Jessica Firger, Newsweek.

They found traces of the Zika Virus in the tissue of two babies who died in Brazil from microcephaly as noted in the article “CDC confirms link between Zika, microcephaly in Brazilian babies who died”, published February 10, 2016 by Erin Kelly, USA Today.

Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Cell Engineering in Baltimore also determined that the Zika Virus targeted human neural progenitor cells in the foetus, killing 90% of them in 3 days as noted in the article  “Scientists find link between birth defects and Zika Virus”, published 4 March 2016, France 24.

This affects the developement of the layer of cerebral cortex in the fetal brain and may really be the cause of microcephaly.

More and more studies are being done to form a more concise picture of the Zika Virus, with a study by French scientists of a cluster of cases in the French Polynesia hinting at a connection to Guillian-Barré Syndrome as reported in “Guillain-Barré Syndrome, the other dark side of Zika virus”, published March 4 2016, Deutche-Welle.

Guillian-Barré Syndrome is a disorder of the nervous system that causes:

1.      Weakness of the muscles
2.      Autoimmune response

This is where the body's own immune system mistakenly attacks its own nerve cells causing nerve damage and a delayed signal response.   The Zika Virus is now beginning to look like rubella part II, being as rubella also causes microcephaly as noted in “Evidence Grows Linking Zika, Microcephaly and Other Nerve Syndromes”, published March 9, 2016 by  Karen Weintraub, Scientific American.

However, unlike rubella, which can affect the developement of the baby in the early stages of pregnancy, Zika Virus appears to be able to affect the developement of the baby in the later stages of pregnancy as well.

So what is Jamaica doing about this currently?

Jamaica and Zika Virus – Dealing with multiple infections stretching resources

Jamaica has confirmed the presence of the Zika Virus in Portmore since Saturday, January 30, 2016 as noted in my blog article entitled “How Zika Virus confirmed in Portmore, St. Catherine will spread through Jamaica”.   

The symptoms of the Zika Virus, which take four (4) to seven (7) days after the initial infection to manifest and last for up to four (4) weeks or longer, are not much different from the common cold:

1.      Conjunctivitis
2.      Fever
3.      Headache
4.      Joint and muscle pain
5.      Rash
6.      Swelling of the lower limbs
7.      Weakness

Also seven (7) parishes in Jamaica have been listed as having a high risk of a Zika Virus outbreak even as the Ministry of Health is playing the cover-up game as per my analysis in my blog article entitled “Why the Ministry of Health is covering up Local Transmission of Zika Virus in Jamaica” :

1.      Kingston
2.      St Andrew
3.      St Catherine
4.      St Thomas
5.      Clarendon
6.      Manchester
7.      Westmoreland

If you had caught the Chikungunya Virus, however, you already have immunities from Zika Virus, particularly good news for the following vulnerable groups:

1.      Babies
2.      Children suffering from an illness
3.      Elderly persons with other health problems

So far a lab at the UHWI (University Hospital of the West Indies) has been upgraded to test from the Zika Virus at a cost of JA$1 million as noted in the article “Local ZIKV-Testing Lab Kicks Off Operations Today”, Published Monday March 7, 2016, The Jamaica Gleaner

This will make test results faster to confirm than having to wait on the results to come back from the Trinidad and Tobago-based CARPHA (Caribbean Public Health Agency).

 We're also released a PSA (Public Service Announcement) alerting members of the Jamaican public of the presence of the Zika Virus and how to deal with it as noted in “Jamaica warns about Zika with catchy reggae PSA”, published February 15, 2016 By ASHLEY WELCH, CBS News.  

But it ultimately it all comes down to preventing the Aedes Aegypti mosquito from breeding and reducing Aedes Aegypti mosquito bites by:

1.      Wearing long-sleeved clothing or long pants
2.      Using DEET insect repellents
3.      Sleeping under mosquito nets
4.      Removing or covering container that can hold water

Reducing the breeding places for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito is crucial to controlling the spread of the Zika Virus as shown in the CARPHA Yard Poster below.  
From March 2, 2016
Making your own DEET-free insect repellant suitable for babies is also a good idea as explained in my blog article entitled “How to make non-DEET Mosquito Repellant and learn to love Zika Virus”. 

Finally boosting you immune system by taking Vitamin C and Vitamin B Complex as well as avoid pregnancy for the next two (2) years would help Jamaicans weather the storm of this latest illness to afflict the people of this country.

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