Colombia confirms first three deaths of patients infected with Zika virus

Patients had contracted a apparently related cancer that attacks the nervous system and causes paralysis, and another two deaths were still unconfirmed

Colombia has confirmed the first three deaths of patients infected with the Zika virus who had contracted a seemingly related cancer that attacks the nervous system and causes paralysis.

Alejandro Gaviria, the health pastor, told the Guardian that another two demises caused by the disease known as Guillain-Barre syndrome were still unconfirmed to be Zika-related.

Health officers in the countrys second city, Medellin, reported on Thursday that a man and a woman admitted from other areas died in the past week after presenting symptoms of Guillain-Barre, which include muscle weakness and paralysis. Another man died in late November. All three tested positive for the Zika virus.

Gaviria said Colombia has registered about 100 cases of GBS that are believed to be related to the Zika virus. Overall, Colombia has recorded more than 20,500 confirmed occurrences of Zika infection.

Guillain-Barre-related deaths are rare but Gaviria warned that recent cases of the ailment seen in Colombia have not responded to traditional treatments of immunoglobulin.

Mortality is high, Gaviria said in a phone interview a day after meeting with health ministers from around Latin America in Montevideo to address the crisis caused by the spread of Zika.

Zika virus by itself causes mild flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all, but earlier this week the World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency because of suspected links to a birth defect known as microcephly, which causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads.

Reported microcepahly suits spiked in Brazil which has the worlds highest number of people infected with Zika.

But Gaviria said that in Colombia, which has the second largest Zika patients , no cases of pertained microcephaly have been reported. Its kind of a mystery, he said adding that either Colombia will start seeing microcephaly lawsuits soon, or there are factors in Brazil that predispose patients to it that do not exist in Colombia.

The science journal Nature reported that researchers of birth defect in Latin America were questioning the real sizing of the apparent upsurge in the number of microcephaly in Brazilian children.

But Jorge Lopez-Camelo and Ieda Maria Orioli, from the The latin american countries Collaborative Study of Congenital Malformations( ECLAMC ), suggested that the baseline may have been underestimated and that heightened awareness of the birth defect, because of the possible link with Zika, may have led to an increase in reported cases.

We are only now beginning to understand the dimensions of Zika, Gaviria said.

Colombia has said that if microcephaly is detected in foetuses, women can opt to abort. Under Colombian statute, abortion is legal for women whose foetuses show a malformation that stimulates life unviable, if the pregnancy was a result of rape, or if the womans health is in danger.

Gaviria has argued that includes womens mental health, which could be cited in the case of giving birth to a child with microcephly.

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