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Countries with ongoing outbreaks of Zika virus have observed a notable rise in reported cases of Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS), with mounting evidence of a causal link between Zika virus infection and the neurological syndrome. However, the risk of GBS following a Zika virus infection is not well characterized. In this work, we used data from 11 locations with publicly available data to estimate the risk of GBS following an infection with Zika virus, as well as the location-specific incidence of infection and the number of suspect GBS cases reported per infection.
We built a mathematical inference framework utilizing data from 11 locations that had reported suspect Zika and GBS cases, two with completed outbreaks prior to 2015 (French Polynesia and Yap) and nine others in the Americas covering partial outbreaks and where transmission was ongoing as of early 2017.
We estimated that 2.0 (95% credible interval 0.5–4.5) reported GBS cases may occur per 10,000 Zika virus infections. The frequency of reported suspect Zika cases varied substantially and was highly uncertain, with a mean of 0.11 (95% credible interval 0.01–0.24) suspect cases reported per infection.
These estimates can help efforts to prepare for the GBS cases that may occur during Zika epidemics and highlight the need to better understand the relationship between infection and the reported incidence of clinical disease.