PRESS RELEASE:-The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is holding a workshop to train Caribbean health personnel in the clinical management of severe neurological complications related to Zika virus, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Since Zika virus was detected in Brazil in May 2015, 45 countries and territories in the Americas have reported transmission of the disease. Several countries reported severe neurological cases associated with infection by this virus mainly transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito Aedes aegypti.
“The workshop aims to build the capacity of health professionals in the Caribbean so that they are better prepared to detect and treat patients with Guillain-Barré Syndrome,” said Godfrey Xuereb, PAHO/WHO representative in Barbados and Eastern Caribbean countries. The opening of the two-day workshop today was led by the Minister of Health of Barbados, John Boyce, who thanked PAHO for its support to Caribbean countries in their fight against Zika.
Based on scientific research, there is a consensus that Zika virus can trigger Guillain-Barré syndrome. Since June 2016, the number of cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome has been increasing in the Caribbean. For this reason, PAHO/WHO is working to expand and strengthen the professional capacity to provide adequate medical attention to these cases.
New WHO guidelines for clinical management of patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome will be outlined in the meeting, focusing on practical approaches to implementation in different countries. Participants are expected to return home and lead the process of developing locally adapted protocols to improve the clinical management of severe neurological cases involving Zika virus in their countries.
Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare condition in which the patient’s immune system attacks the peripheral nerves. People of all ages can be affected, but it is most common in adults and males. In 20% to 25% of cases the chest muscles are affected, making breathing difficult. The majority of those affected, even the most severely, fully recover.
“We’ve brought experts at the highest level so that Caribbean clinicians are better prepared to provide the care required for a person with a severe neurological disorder,” said Pilar Ramón Pardo, Chief of Operations for the Zika Emergency Response at PAHO/WHO. “These patients represent the most severe cases of infection Zika. They require a complex level of attention and care to prevent complications and speed their recovery,” she said.
The experts participating in the workshop include neuroepidemiologist James Sejvar, of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and neurologist Javier Carod-Artal, of the NHS Highland Raigmore Hospital (Inverness, UK). Both are members of the group that developed the WHO guidelines. Also teaching are Dr. Rodrigo Salinas, of the University of Chile, who has extensive experience in neurological complications due to Zika virus; and Professor Federico Montero, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Costa Rica, who addresses the key issues in patient improvement and recovery.
The workshop is part of a series of training activities initiated in May this year, where health professionals from 16 Caribbean countries were oriented in the clinical management of Zika virus infection during pregnancy.