Pregnant women and their unborn babies are not the only ones at risk of complications linked to Zika virus. The virus poses a threat to adults in the form of meningoencephalitis, a dangerous condition wherein the brain is inflamed.
A team of researchers from France has released a new report that reveals another reason for people to fear the potentially-dangerous virus. They found an 81-year-old man who acquired a Zika virus infection while he was on a cruise in the South Pacific. He developed a form of brain inflammation after returning to France.
The result was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
In the previous months, Zika has already been linked to serious birth defects in infants born to infected mothers and paralysis. Now, this new study is linking the infection to another serious complication, brain inflammation, which is potentially fatal.
The patient had been in perfect health before becoming ill, but after returning from the cruise, he developed fever and suddenly slipped into a coma. He also had rashes and upon waking up from coma, experienced hallucinations.
However, after 17 days in the intensive care, the man recovered with just a weak left arm. He was not given any specific treatment.
Amesh Adalja, a senior associate at the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said that Zika being linked to meningoencephalitis is a "serious condition" since it infects the brain, spinal cord and its linings.
"That Zika is being linked to this condition is a very serious matter and adds to the growing evidence of the full-spectrum of disease this virus can cause," she said.
In the past, Zika was only considered to cause mild illness with flu-like symptoms. In the latest outbreak, however, it has been linked to multiple neurological disorders. The cases of microcephaly among infants also increased.
In the United States, a total of 193 travel-associated Zika cases were reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In U.S. territories, however, 173 cases were locally-acquired while one case was travel-associated.
Still, health experts are advising all travelers to take precaution when travelling to places with known Zika virus infections. Pregnant women are advised to postpone travel to these places and if the travel cannot be cancelled, they are urged to take mosquito protection precautions.