Over five hospitalised with suspected Zika-linked brain disorder

- Norton says treatment taxing GPHC’s resources

Treatment of over five persons with Guillian Barre Syndrome (GBS), the rare neurological disorder said to be associated with the mosquito-borne Zika virus in some countries, is taxing the resources at George-town Public Hospital Cor-poration (GPHC), according to Minister of Public Health Dr George Norton.

Norton was at the time responding to questions raised by this newspaper regarding the hospital’s ability to handle the recent influx of persons hospitalised with the neurological disorder.

GBS is an autoimmune disorder that works by attacking the peripheral nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, causing temporary paralysis, which can, in some cases, require patients to rely on respirators for breathing.

During the acute phase, the disorder can be life-threatening, with about a quarter developing weakness of the breathing muscles, while some are affected by changes in the function of the autonomic nervous system, which can lead to dangerous abnormalities in heart rate and blood pressure. Colombia and Venezuela have seen an increase in such cases.

Late last week, Stabroek News had reported the case of Pooran Ramcharitar, a cane-cutter from East Canje, Berbice, who, up to yesterday, remained a patient of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the GPHC after being diagnosed with the disorder less than three weeks ago.

The minister has since confirmed that there is in excess of five persons currently hospitalised at the GPHC, where they are being monitored by the ministry as a result of been diagnosed with GBS.

However, while the minister couldn’t say where these patients had originated from, he stated that the persons were not specific to any area.

He further explained that the ministry would not be able to say whether or not the cases are a direct result of the patients having had contracted the Zika virus, with which the disorder is said to be associated, since the origin of the disorder is often unknown.

Meanwhile, Norton stated that while doctors are equipped with the knowledge of treating the disorder, the treatment in itself, which he said includes patients being administered haemoglobin shots, is very costly and is taking a toll on the resources of the hospital.

This is particularly so in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where those suffering with the most severe cases may have to be hooked up to ventilators to aid their breathing as in the case of Ramcharitar.

Other patients are split between the High Dependency Unit (HDU) and the other wards, depending on their needs and the severity of their cases.

The minister also commented on the ongoing fight against the spread of the Zika virus, saying that several of the persons who were confirmed to have contracted Zika have since been rid of the related symptoms.

And while the number of reported cases now stands at nine, the ministry and its various units remain committed to preventing the spread of the virus, he added.

Norton stated that both educational awareness and fogging exercises are still ongoing, with special attention being given to the Berbice region.

Additionally, he noted that several obstetricians and pediatricians from Guyana are expected to travel to neighbouring Barbados in the near future to take part in a special course facilitated by the PAHO/WHO on dealing with mothers and children diagnosed with the Zika virus.

In the meantime, Norton highlighted the ministry’s intention to have testing for Zika virus done right here in the Guyana. This, he said, follows the return of the two technologists who were previously engaged in a course at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), where they were undergoing laboratory training on Zika testing.


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