First you get the Zika, then you get the Guillain-Barre?
That’s what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention intends to find out in Puerto Rico. CDC experts will fly to Puerto Rico – a U.S. territory – to see if the mosquito-borne infection will cause an increase of the nerve disorder. “Right now we're focusing on Puerto Rico, where we've just started seeing cases of Zika as well as cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome,” neuroepidemiologist at the CDC Dr. James Sejvar told Reuters. “In order to get ahead of the curve, we're going to try to rapidly establish active surveillance for Guillain-Barre in Puerto Rico in the hopes that we're catching the outbreak early.”
The study will be a prospective, rigorous investigation that will hopefully “quickly identify” cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), collect blood samples and spinal fluid at the start of the illness, and compare outcomes to similar patients who did not develop GBS. According to Sejvar, Puerto Rico might not have a large epidemic of the Zika virus – but then again it might, based on what has happened in Colombia. About 100 people in Colombia with GBS have symptoms of the mosquito-carried disease as well – which include pain and fever. “We have confirmed and attributed three deaths to Zika,” head of Colombia's National Health Institute and epidemiologist Martha Lucia Ospina told reporters during a news conference on February 5th. “In this case, the three deaths were preceded by Guillain-Barre syndrome.”
In addition to Colombia – which reported 86 cases in the five weeks to January 30th, 2016, compared to the 242 the country reports on an average year – Brazil, El Salvador, Suriname and Venezuela have reported increasing cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome. With over 25,000 cases – 3,000 of which involve pregnant women – Colombia is the second most affected country by the Zika virus after Brazil. Not like Brazil is sweating that, though. German Olympic Sports Confederation's leading doctor, Bernd Wolfarth told Reuters that, while Zika should be monitored, the virus poses no threat to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He added that “apart from the fact athletes decide for themselves and freely whether they will compete or not, one must now follow the development (of the virus) very carefully.”
Nock, nock. Who’s there? Not Kenya… or is it?
Germans and Brazil were never a good combination, and Kenya knows that. The National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) is torn between sending their athletes to the Summer Games or have them stay at home on account of the Zika outbreak. NOCK head Kipchoge Keino said the country – known for its dominance in middle-distance and long-distance athletics – would not “risk taking Kenyans there if this Zika virus reaches epidemic levels,” but then NOCK's chief of mission for Rio Stephen Soi redacted that to “it is too early to make a determination on the status of the virus during the Games time which is six months away.”
Meanwhile, the United States Olympic Committee also supports athletes’ individual decision to skip the Olympics if they fear for their health. U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, who Reuters calls “one of the world's most famous soccer players” – by ‘world’ they must mean Corellia, the planet that the Solos hail from – was quoted by Sports Illustrated magazine as saying “if I had to make the choice today, I wouldn’t go. Competing in the Olympics should be a safe environment for every athlete, male and female alike. Female athletes should not be forced to make a decision that could sacrifice the health of a child.” When she was told what the odds were that she might contract the Zika virus, she yelled, “never tell me the odds!” That last part may not have happened.
On the other hand, British Olympic Association Chairman Lord Sebastian Coe said none of the country's athletes was reluctant to go, though British rower Andrew Triggs Hodge did say that his wife Eeke would not accompany him because of the "very real and frightening threat” of Zika, and probably the fact that his wife’s name kind of sounds like Zika is just tempting fate. Back to the Germans, Teutonic sports officials have sent a brochure to teams, coaches and medical staff with information on the virus and basic preventive measures. “The brochure we sent ends fittingly with the phrase that there is no need for panic,” Olympic Sports Confederation spokesman Michael Schirp said. Germany, you master of subtlety, you.