The Zika Virus and Disability

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last
week released numbers raising the possibility that the Zika virus
could lead to hundreds of disability insurance claims, and even
some long-term care insurance (LTCI) claims, involving
non-pregnant adults in the continental United States.


CDC officials reported that public health authorities recorded
683 laboratory-confirmed Zika infections in Puerto during
the period from Nov. 1, 2015, through April 14.

News coverage of a widespread Zika outbreak in Brazil
has focused mainly on the effects of the virus on fetuses.
Authorities at the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO)
and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated last
week that Zika appears to have caused at least 91,387
confirmed infections in Brazil and at least 1,198 cases of
microcephaly, or malformed heads, involving babies
born to mothers who were exposed to Zika.

Public health officials have also talked, often more generally,
about a somewhat less common complication: Guillain-Barré
syndrome (GBS) cases linked to Zika infections.

In a patient who has GBS, the immune system attacks
nerve cells and the sheaths around nerve cells.

Many patients recover fully from GBS, but the condition kills
some patients and paralyzes others. When Dutch researchers
studied the cost of treating 397 patients with the syndrome
identified at European hospitals, they had to exclude three
patients from the study because those patients died within
one week of being identified. Only about 40 percent of the
patients in the study could walk without assistance more than
30 meters in an open space four weeks after they were identified.

The United States normally has about one or two
cases of GBS per 100,000 residents per year.

When CDC officials released the new Zika data for Puerto Rico,
they said they knew of five people in Puerto Rico who tested
positive for Zika and had developed GBS.

In other reports, CDC officials have said that mosquitoes
capable of carrying the Zika virus are already present
in at least 30 U.S. states, as well as in Puerto Rico.

One problem with knowing what those numbers mean for the
GBS rate among adults living in the continental states is that
it’s hard to know whether current or past Zika infection
patterns will repeat themselves, or even what the full infection
numbers really are, either in the United States or other countries.

The question is, are you well-prepared?