A French Polynesia news source is reporting four cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) that could be attributed to infection with the chikungunya virus in Tahiti.

Aedes mosquito
Aedes aegypti image/CDC

The report in La Depeche (computer translated) notes that  a 34-year-old man is currently in intensive care, while the other 3 are under observation in the neurology department.

During the first part of the year, French Polynesia recorded more than 40 GBS cases linked to the outbreak of another mosquito borne viral disease, Zika fever.

According to a ProMed Mail report, GBS has been previously described as a rare sequela of chikungunya infection in other locations. For example, GBS was described in 2 patients with evidence of chikungunya infection on the French island of Reunion in 2006.

It has not been reported in the chikungunya epidemic that has swept the Western hemisphere this year.

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The first symptoms of this disorder include varying degrees of weakness or tingling sensations in the legs. In many instances the symmetrical weakness and abnormal sensations spread to the arms and upper body. These symptoms can increase in intensity until certain muscles cannot be used at all and, when severe, the person is almost totally paralyzed. In these cases the disorder is life threatening – potentially interfering with breathing and, at times, with blood pressure or heart rate – and is considered a medical emergency.

Usually Guillain-Barré occurs a few days or weeks after the patient has had symptoms of a respiratory or gastrointestinal viral infection.