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Zika Outbreak. What you need to know!

Dear Patients,

Most of you heard there is a growing concern about Zika virus worldwide and specifically in North America that may cause significant neurologic symptoms in affected patients. Our office would like to use this opportunity to shed some light on this issue.


The virus was first discovered in 1947 in Uganda and is a member of the flavivirus family which also includes dengue, yellow fever and West Nile viruses. Zika virus is a vector borne illness which means it is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Furthermore, it is also transmitted from an infected pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or during childbirth in some cases causing significant birth defects to the baby. Transmission through blood transfusion and sexual contact are now also reported.


The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) report that about 20% of people exposed to the mosquitos carrying the Zika virus develop symptoms such as:

  • Fever

  • Skin Rash

  • Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

  • Muscle and joint Pain

  • Headache

In an immune competent individual the symptoms are typically self-limiting and last for upto 7 days.


Earlier this week the CDC came out with an official statment warning health care professionals and the public of a growing concern about Gauillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) in connection with Zika virus.

Gauillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) – where the body develops an autoimmune process by which it attacks its own nerves and can cause debilitating pain, numbness and weakness.

Diagnosed by:

  • Neurologic exam

  • Nerve Conduction Study/Electormyography test (NCS/EMG).

  • Lumbar Puncture (LP)

Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) – another autoimmune condition that mimics Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This condition causes an inflammation in the brain, spinal cord and occasionally optic nerves that damages the brain’s myelin – coating of the nerve fibers. This condition is more common in children but can be seen in adults as well. One may experience symptoms such as fever, nausea/vomiting, headaches, visual disturbance, weakness, numbness, unsteadiness, confusion and seizures.

Diagnosed by:

  • Neurologic exam

  • MRI of the brain and spinal cord

  • Lumbar Puncture (LP)

  • Blood work

  • Other (EEG, NCV/EMG)


If you would like to know more about any of these neurological conditions, in-house diagnostic procedures, or have travelled to any of the high-risk countries and have experienced these symptoms, please call our office at 212-288-8832 to schedule an appointment.

Elena Frid MD

Pediatric and Adult Autoimmune Neurology Specialist


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