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What are the neurological symptoms of Zika virus? Know the details

Zika virus typically results in mild symptoms like fever, rash, and joint pain, however, its neurological complications can be severe and lasting

Zika Virus

Sudeep Singh Rawat New Delhi

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Monsoon has arrived in most parts of the country but it also brought a fatal vector-borne disease called Zika Virus. It can spread through sex or from a mother to her foetus during pregnancy. Infections during pregnancy can cause brain effects. The vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika virus is yet to be developed. 

The ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes is continuous rainfall, water-logging and dampness which play a crucial role in spreading viruses like Zika. 

The most common symptoms of the Zika virus are joint and muscle pain, rash, fever, conjunctivitis and headaches. However, according to the doctors, the neurological complications resulting from Zika can be more concerning. 

Dr Vivek Barun, Consultant–Neurology and Epilepsy, Department of Neurology, Artemis Agrim Institute of Neuroscience, appeared in an interview with HT Lifestyle. According to him, the Zika virus typically results in mild symptoms, but its neurological complications can be severe and lasting.

"These complications are especially concerning in specific populations, including pregnant women, infants, and individuals with pre-existing neurological conditions,” he added. 

Microcephaly and Congenital Zika Syndrome

The association of Zika virus with microcephaly, a neurological condition where infants are born with smaller-than-normal heads and underdeveloped brains, has been especially alarming. The virus is known to penetrate the placental barrier, infecting foetal brain cells and disrupting their development. This results in Congenital Zika Syndrome – abnormalities including microcephaly, brain calcifications, and other neurological deficits.

Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) is another serious condition that attacks the peripheral nervous system and is also linked with Zika virus infection. GBS can cause muscle weakness, paralysis and in severe cases, respiratory failure. Even though the exact mechanism of the link between GBS and the Zika virus is still being studied, the immune response is believed to be triggered by the Zika virus. 

Other neurological manifestations

It can also cause encephalitis, meningitis, and myelitis which are less common. Encephalitis and meningitis are about inflammation of the brain and its surrounding membranes leading to symptoms like severe headache, fever, and seizures. Myelitis or inflammation of the spinal cord, can lead to paralysis and sensory deficits. 

Dr Barun explains that the Zika virus poses significant neurological risks, especially for developing foetuses and individuals susceptible to autoimmune responses.

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First Published: Jul 11 2024 | 2:26 PM IST

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