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Doctors say Zika virus is making healthy adults sick - not just pregnant women

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

There are new concerns about the Zika virus as experts say pregnant women aren't the only ones at risk. In fact, doctors report some rare cases in other countries involving paralysis in healthy adults.

“It can also affect adults and even children with neurological diseases, particularly one that we call Guillain-Barre syndrome which is a paralytic illness,” said Dr. John England, head of the department of neurology at LSUHSC School of Medicine.

England points out that 80 percent of people infected with Zika won't experience any symptoms, but a small percentage who do could have lasting complications.

“There are isolated cases and case reports of patients who have meningitis or meningoencephalitis, where the virus can actually infect the brain,” England said.

The most severe cases are being reported in countries like Brazil and Honduras where Zika is most prevalent. With 503 U.S. cases so far, experts say it's only a matter of time before that number, increases.

“I don’t want to be an alarmist, but I think we all have to be concerned that this could spread here, particularly in the summer,” England said.

Even Mayor Mitch Landrieu is acknowledging how serious the situation is, traveling to Washington D.C. last week and expressing the need for federal funding to combat the virus.

“As summer approaches with mosquitoes soon reaching their peak season, we have a big-time sense of emergency, so the message is now not later,” Landrieu testified.

“We have been getting a lot of pregnant women calling and they're scared,” Mosquito Authority pest control company owner Peter Freeman said.

Freeman said he can hardly keep up with demand as more and more residents hire his company to spray their yards in an effort to rid them of mosquitoes.

“That’s one of the biggest challenges I’ve had this summer, is trying to hire new people to keep up with the growth,” Freeman explained.

The best defense is to limit travel to affected areas, especially for pregnant women, and England stresses that resident should get rid of any standing water near their homes.

In response to the growing concern, LSU Health Sciences Center is holding a public meeting May 23 to share the very latest on the virus. Health experts will be on hand to answer questions. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in the first floor auditorium of the LSU Health New Orleans Human Development Center. It’s located at 411 South Prieur Street.

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