Zika and Guillain-Barré Syndrome: Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is an uncommon sickness of the nervous system in which a person’s own immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness, and sometimes, paralysis.
Several countries that have experienced Zika outbreaks recently have reported increases in people who have Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). Current CDC research suggests that GBS is strongly associated with Zika; however, only a small proportion of people with recent Zika virus infection get GBS. CDC is continuing to investigate the link between GBS and Zika to learn more.
GBS symptoms include weakness of the arms and legs and, in severe cases, can affect the muscles that control breathing.
Researchers do not fully understand what causes GBS. Most people with GBS report an infection before they have GBS symptoms. Rarely, vaccination has also been associated with the onset of GBS (for example, the 1976 Swine influenza vaccine).
An estimated 3,000 to 6,000 people, or 1-2 cases for every 100,000 people, develop GBS each year in the US. Most cases of GBS tend to occur for no known reason, and true “clusters” of cases of GBS are very unusual.
If you want to know more about the number of GBS cases in a certain area, contact the state or local health department in the state where the cases happen. CDC collaborates with state and local health departments to investigate reports of possibly unusually large numbers or “clusters” of GBS cases.