Dear Lebanon, There’s No Such Thing As A “Guillain-Barre” Virus

When you think the Lebanese press circle couldn’t sink lower, they surprise you. Be it with their super horrible reporting which happens often, to them jumping on anything they’d deem as a scoop to lately causing the entire Lebanese population to panic over something called “Guillain-Barre” virus that’s ravaging the country.

I have no idea who told them about that so-called virus, but this is bullshit.

I first saw the story on MTV. And like the good media that they are, everyone else immediately jumped on the story because clearly we have nothing else to worry about in Lebanon so let’s add a horrible-looking virus flying in the air among us that can kill us at any moment.

Behold the credibility:

It’s the apocalypse I tell you, MTV-style.

In their defense, MTV did ask a doctor about it. And he gave them a more or less correct answer of what Guillan-Barre actually is. But I suppose MTV decided that the explanation was too non-dramatic and not-attention grabbing, so they figured they’d make up an entirely new virus strain and get Lebanese across the country to panic.

Let’s get a few things in order:

There’s no such thing as a “Guillain-Barre” virus, but there is something called a “Guillain-Barre” syndrome. That is to say there is no virus floating in the Lebanese air that will paralyze you, but there is a very well-documented syndrome called “Guillain-Barre” that is quite rare, albeit present, that affects the nerves and whose effect, when diagnosed and promptly treated, is almost entirely reversible.

This is what Guillain-Barre syndrome is:

Following an infection by a virus or a bacteria, some people develop antibodies that end up attacking their own nerves. The most common pathogen isolated in patients who have developed Guillain-Barre is a bacteria called “Campylobacter Jejuni” (don’t try to pronounce it).

As such, this syndrome is autoimmune (your own body attacking itself) and inflammatory (there’s an inflammation taking place) that targets myelin in your peripheral nervous system. Myelin is a form of insulation that covers nerve endings leading to much-faster propagation of messages. Damaging myelin leads to very slow nerve conduction, if not minimal conduction altogether.

This manifests in tingling in a person’s feet at first that propagates upwards to their legs and thighs, then hands and arms. Ultimately, a person would also stop being able to move their limbs altogether. The disease is progressive and ascending.

The main life threat of Guillain-Barre comes in it affecting a person’s respiratory muscles, that is to say since it ends up paralyzing muscles across the body, it might also paralyze the muscles that you need to breathe which causes a person to end up in respiratory failure. Don’t freak out, however, because this is a sign of a late progression of the disease and most people do not reach this stage and are managed well before it.

There’s no way to know if a person will develop Guillain-Barre or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re Lebanese, Sudanese or Vietnamese: the processes that cause a person to end up with the syndrome are under study. Being infected with a bacteria or a virus does not mean you will end up with this syndrome. It’s an extremely rare disease. However, it is manageable.

Since Guillain-Barre syndrome involves your own body attacking itself, treatment essentially alters this process of attack by blocking it or decreasing it. I have no idea about the cost of treatment, but it works well at stopping the progression of the disease and bringing back any person towards a full recovery.

Lebanese media want you to think Guillain-Barre is a death sentence. It’s a disease with a fancy name that most people know absolutely nothing about, so why not turn it into yet another Lebanese panic-du-jour to make people rush to their doctors and wonder if their seasonal allergies come spring time will get them paralyzed in a few weeks?

I have seen Guillain-Barre often. The patients I have seen were all okay. A neighbor and family friend was so unlucky she had Guillain-Barre twice. She made a full recovery both times and is now a fully functional woman in her thirties with absolutely no care in the world.

My advice is as follows: do not trust MTV, LBC, OTV, etc., when it comes to medical information. In the age of the internet, it is your duty first and foremost to make sure that what they’re saying is true or not. As a rule of thumb, they’re full of it most of the time. Deal with them as such.

Shame on MTV and whichever media outlet jumped on the story without fact-checking it. Google is your friend. Or, you know, a 3rd year medical student would’ve told you that you’re wrong.

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Dear Lebanon, There’s No Such Thing As A “Guillain-Barre” Virus

  1. I somehow can’t agree with what your thoughts have to offer. But I must say, not only the Lebanese media is here to blame, but also the Lebanese hospitals.
    4 years ago, my dad was diagnosed with Guillian Bare. And as mentioned, his nervous system and motor neurons were attacked by his own body. After staying paralyzed with breathing tubes in his chest, it took his doctor a week to find about the syndrome, before which he only thought that it was a virus because of the instant weather change.
    The treatment wasn’t that affordable, since specific needle injections were needed in order to destroy the virus which was already spread in his blood.
    After three weeks of struggle, his lungs and heart couldn’t fight on…
    He could’ve been saved if the doctor acted more efficiently with his job inI somehow can’t agree with what your thoughts have to offer. But I must say, not only the Lebanese media is here to blame, but also the Lebanese hospitals.
    4 years ago, my dad was diagnosed with Guillian Bare. And as mentioned, his nervous system and motor neurons were attacked by his own body. After staying paralyzed with breathing tubes in his chest, it took his doctor a week to find about the syndrome, before which he only thought that it was a virus because of the instant weather change.
    The treatment wasn’t that affordable, since specific needle injections were needed in order to destroy the virus which was already spread in his blood.
    After three weeks of struggle, his lungs and heart couldn’t fight on…
    He could’ve been saved if the doctor acted more efficientlI somehow can’t agree with what your thoughts have to offer. But I must say, not only the Lebanese media is here to blame, but also the Lebanese hospitals.
    4 years ago, my dad was diagnosed with Guillian Bare. And as mentioned, his nervous system and motor neurons were attacked by his own body. After staying paralyzed with breathing tubes in his chest, it took his doctor a week to find about the syndrome, before which he only thought that it was a virus because of the instant weather change.
    The treatment wasn’t that affordable, since specific needle injections were needed in order to destroy the virus which was already spread in his blood.
    After three weeks of struggle, his lungs and heart couldn’t fight on…
    He could’ve been saved if the doctor acted more efficient knowledgeable and professional in his filthy hospital.

    What I really think is that, instead of shaming the media or anything even anyone, we first shall state the out and stand up for a rightful social care system.

    Reply
    • I’m terribly sorry for your loss. May your father rest in peace.

      The issue here isn’t about the cost of the treatment or Lebanese hospitals. I’ve written about those before. It’s about the fact that this syndrome is not a virus. Your dad’s body was not ravaged by a virus. It was being attacked by his own cells who were perceiving his neurons as foreign bodies.

      The post at hand is merely to point out that there’s no such thing as a guillain-Barre virus and there sure as hol isn’t an epidemic.

      Reply
      • Thank you so much. And no, not completely turning an issue on the cost, but as well on the fact that, more knowledgeable doctors and efficient healthcare is needed… Don’t you think? But pitifully the country’s advancing backwards!

        Oh and nice job with your blog, just discovered you! Sorry for retype up!

        Reply
  2. It is misleading of you to say that patients will experience full recovery. Your account of your neighbor and few patients is anecdotal at best and is not enough to assert such a heavy statement. Beware as by saying this you are creating false hope and mistrust towards the medical system, as evidenced by the reply above.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: The Ella Tannous Case: When Every Lebanese Suddenly Become A Doctor | A Separate State of Mind | A Lebanese Blog

  4. I am happy to hear you’ve seen Guillain-Barre many times. My sister had a severe case of this in 2003, and it reached her respiratory muscles the second day after she got the feet tingling.
    A leading hospital and doctor in Lebanon did not even recognise it. He didn’t know what to do or what was happening. he refused to give her something to help her breath when she said she felt like she needed it and only gave it to her when she could no longer breath. That led to brain death, coma and ultimately death.
    I spent so much time of my life reading about this syndrome and i realize it’s rare And that death is even more rare. but ultimately what happened to my family is that doctors hadn’t seen it. They diagnosed it late and it cost her life. so if the media talks about it so current doctors can call bullshit, that makes me happy, because that means they know about it. If you and your new doctor friends have seen it multiple times, that also makes me happy.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s