Venezuelan authorities detected 255 cases of Guillain-Barre neurological syndrome, which has been linked to the Zika virus, Health Minister Luisana Melo said Friday.
"As of yesterday we had registered 255 patients with Guillain-Barre syndrome, and 55 of them are in an intensive care unit," she said during an interview on state television.
Up to now some 4,500 people are suspected of having been infected with the Zika virus, according to Melo.
So far, she said, there have been no reports in Venezuela of Zika-infected pregnant women giving birth to children with abnormally small skulls, a condition known as microcephaly.
Melo said the figure of 4,500 is not the total number since, according to authorities' estimates, three out of every four people infected with the virus are asymptomatic and haven't reported the illness, so that the number of cases could be very much greater.
The minister reported the design of "a plan with promotion and prevention activities that will be rolled out across the country, and in which all healthcare workers will take part."
Some 70,000 liters (18,500 gallons) of insecticide will be used to exterminate mosquitoes "in every corner of national territory" in order to prevent the spread of Zika as well as of degue fever and Chikungunya, three diseases transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, the Zika virus could increase the possibility of microcephalic babies being born, as well as spreading Guillain-Barre syndrome and other autoimmune diseases.
The current Zika outbreak in northeastern Brazil has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in the number of babies born with microcephaly.
In recent months, the Zika virus has spread with incredible speed from South to North America, and according to estimates of the WHO, could cause between 3 million and 4 million cases of the disease this year. EFE