Peru has declared a national health emergency as the country witnesses an unusual spike in Guillain-Barré Syndrome cases. A 90-day nationwide sanitary emergency has been declared as the cases totaled 182 since last month. Out of them, 31 patients remain hospitalized, and four have died, reports said.

Peru's health minister César Vásquez observed that the increase in the number of cases of the rare neurological disorder could indicate a lack of immunoglobulin or antibodies, WION reported.

What is Guillain-Barre syndrome?

It is a serious autoimmune disease that can result in muscle weakness, paralysis and death. The condition occurs when the body's immune system damages nerves, the exact cause of which is not known.

Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) is not contagious and cannot be passed down through families. The symptoms often follow a viral or bacterial infection. Around 3,000 to 6,000 people develop the condition in the U.S. each year.

Symptoms of GBS

  • Tingling sensation in fingers, toes, ankles or wrists
  • Weakness in the legs that spreads to the upper body
  • Unsteady walking
  • Difficulty speaking, chewing or swallowing
  • Vision problems
  • Difficulty with bladder control or bowel function
  • Heart rate or blood pressure issues
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe pain, especially at night

Types of Guillain-Barre syndrome:

1. Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy - This is the most common type of GBS seen in North America and Europe. The patients develop sensory symptoms before developing motor weakness. The weakness usually begins in the lower part of the body and progresses upward.

2. Miller-Fisher syndrome (MFS) - It is the type of GBS common in Asian countries. The condition starts with paralysis of the eyes and an unsteady gait.

3. Acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN) - The condition affects the nerves in the head and causes sudden weakness in the limbs and difficulty in breathing.

4. Acute motor-sensory axonal neuropathy (AMSAN) - It is similar to AMAN but the condition starts with sensory changes, such as tingling or numbness.

Treatment: There is no known cure for Guillain-Barre syndrome except treatments to relieve symptoms and accelerate recovery. Most people recover completely from Guillain-Barre syndrome, but severe cases can be fatal.

Treatments such as immunoglobulin therapy involve intravenous transfer of antibodies from a donor to the patients to reduce their autoimmune response. Another approach is plasma exchange, which allows the removal of some of the antibodies that are attacking healthy cells.