Peru Declares National Health Emergency Over ‘Unusual Increase’ in Rare Neurological Syndrome

Peru Declares National Health Emergency Over ‘Unusual Increase’ in Rare Neurological Syndrome
An ambulance arrives at a hospital in Lima, Peru, in a file photo. (Ernesto Benavides/AFP/Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

Peruvian authorities have declared a 90-day national emergency over an “unusual increase” in Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that’s linked to certain vaccines, the Zika virus, COVID-19, and other viruses, according to reports.

President Dina Boluarte issued a decree over the weekend that about $3.2 million will be used to improve patient care, increase control on detections, and other measures, the Peruvian health ministry stated in a social media post. Emergency measures include acquiring intravenous immunoglobulin and human albumin, manufactured from human plasma.

“Government declares health emergency due to unusual increase in cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome,” the ministry stated on Facebook.

The unusual increase in cases of the disease “negatively affects the continuity of health services, as there are not enough strategic resources to respond to the volume and complexity of the cases in the different health facilities,” according to the decree, which was published in the Peruvian government’s official gazette, according to MercoPress, a news service.

Of the 182 cases that have been reported across the country, 147 patients have been discharged from the hospital, 31 are still hospitalized, and four have died.

“There has been a significant increase in recent weeks that forces us to take actions as a State to protect the health and life of the population,” Health Minister César Vásquez told the news agency.

Guillain-Barré syndrome, often abbreviated as GBS, is described by U.S. government health officials as a “rare neurological disorder in which your immune system mistakenly attacks part of the peripheral nervous system,” ranging from very mild symptoms with a short period of weakness to a “nearly devastating paralysis” that leaves one “unable to breathe independently.”

But “most people eventually recover from even the most severe cases of GBS,” the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s website reads. “After recovery, some people will continue to have some degree of weakness.”

When an individual develops GBS, the myelin sheaths of peripheral nerves are targeted and weakened, according to a Medical News Today article. It isn’t contagious and can’t be transmitted from person to person, it notes.

“The damage prevents the nerves from sending certain information, such as touch sensations, to the spinal cord and brain. This causes a feeling of numbness. In addition, the brain and spinal cord can no longer transmit signals back to the body, leading to muscle weakness,” the website reads.

Initial symptoms include weakness and tingling in the hands and feet or pain in the back and legs. The symptoms often start about three weeks after an infection.

In the United States, about 1 in 100,000 people are likely to develop the illness, the article also states.


There have been studies and data suggesting a link between certain vaccines, including for COVID-19 and RSV [respiratory syncytial virus], and GBS. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and agencies in other countries have long listed GBS as a rare yet possible symptom of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, which uses an adenovirus.

Earlier this year, the FDA noted that GBS is a possible risk of Pfizer’s RSV vaccine among older adults. Two people in their 60s who got the shot were diagnosed with GBS out of about 20,000 recipients, according to the FDA, as scientists have also recommended monitoring for GBS after getting the Pfizer RSV shot.

In July 2021, the FDA attached a warning (pdf) to the J&J vaccine about an increased risk of developing GBS up to 42 days after vaccination. The agency made that decision based on reporting from vaccine recipients who submitted adverse event incidents to the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which collects information to identify strange patterns among those who are vaccinated.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that “very rarely, people have developed GBS in the days or weeks after getting certain vaccines” and again claimed that the “benefits of vaccination far outweigh risks.”

“Most GBS cases usually start a few days or weeks following a respiratory or gastrointestinal viral infection. Occasionally surgery will trigger the syndrome,” the National Institutes of Health website reads.

It also notes that “in rare cases, vaccinations may increase the risk of GBS” and that “there have been reports of a few people who received a vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 virus developing GBS, but the chance of this occurring is very low.”

“Some countries worldwide reported an increased incidence of GBS following infection with the Zika virus,” the website also reads.

Peruvian officials have, in previous years, issued warnings about the Zika virus, which is transmitted via certain species of mosquito.
Peru also is dealing with a severe outbreak of dengue fever so far in 2023, although it isn’t clear if there’s a link between GBS and dengue, a debilitating viral disease spread via mosquitoes. A surge of GBS cases also followed a number of Zika virus infections in French Polynesia between 2012 and 2014, according to reports.
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X:
Related Topics