Emergencies preparedness, response

Guillain-Barré syndrome – El Salvador

Disease Outbreak News
21 January 2016

The National IHR Focal Point of El Salvador has notified PAHO/WHO of an unusual increase of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) in the country. In El Salvador, the annual average number of GBS is 169; however, from 1 December 2015 to 6 January 2016, 46 GBS were recorded, including 2 deaths.

Of the 46 GBS cases, 25 (54%) are male and 35 (76%) are 30 years old or older. All cases were hospitalized and treated with plasma exchange or intravenous immunoglobulin. One of the two deceased patients had a history of multiple underlying chronic diseases. Out of the 22 patients whose information was available, 12 (54%) presented with febrile rash illness in the 15 days prior to the onset of symptoms consistent with GBS.

Investigations are ongoing to determine the cause of infection and acquire further details about the laboratory diagnosis. Possible associations between GBS and Zika virus infection are also being investigated. Since the confirmation of the first case of Zika virus infection in November 2015 until 31 December 2015, Salvadoran health authorities reported 3,836 suspected cases of Zika virus infection.

WHO advice

The proximity of mosquito vector breeding sites to human habitation is a significant risk factor for Zika virus infection. Prevention and control relies on reducing the breeding of mosquitoes through source reduction (removal and modification of breeding sites) and reducing contact between mosquitoes and people. This can be achieved by reducing the number of natural and artificial water-filled habitats that support mosquito larvae, reducing the adult mosquito populations around at-risk communities and by using barriers such as insect screens, closed doors and windows, long clothing and repellents. Since the Aedes mosquitoes (the primary vector for transmission) are day-biting mosquitoes, it is recommended that those who sleep during the daytime, particularly young children, the sick or elderly, should rest under mosquito nets (bed nets), treated with or without insecticide to provide protection.

During outbreaks, space spraying of insecticides may be carried out following the technical orientation provided by WHO to kill flying mosquitoes. Suitable insecticides (recommended by the WHO Pesticide Evaluation Scheme) may also be used as larvicides to treat relatively large water containers, when this is technically indicated.

Basic precautions for protection from mosquito bites should be taken by people traveling to high risk areas, especially pregnant women. These include use of repellents, wearing light colored, long sleeved shirts and pants and ensuring rooms are fitted with screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering.

WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restriction to El Salvador based on the current information available.