The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lastweek raised the possibility that the Zika virus could lead tohundreds of disability insurance claims, and even some long-termcare insurance (LTCI) claims, involving non-pregnant adults in thecontinental United States.

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See also: CDCreports 683 Zika cases, 1 death in Puerto Rico

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

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News coverage of a widespread Zika outbreak in Brazil hasfocused mainly on the effects of the virus on fetuses. Authoritiesat the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World HealthOrganization (WHO) estimated last week that Zika appears to havecaused at least 91,387 confirmed infections in Brazil and at least1,198 cases of microcephaly, or malformed heads, involving babiesborn to mothers who were exposed to Zika.

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See also: Zikavirus does cause birth defects

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

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

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Many patients recover fully from GBS, but the condition killssome patients and paralyzes others. When Dutch researchers studied the cost of treating397 patients with the syndrome identified at European hospitals,they had to exclude three patients from the study because thosepatients died within one week of being identified. Only about 40percent of the patients in the study could walk more than 30 metersin an open space unaided four weeks after they were identified.

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The United States normally has about one or two cases of GBS per100,000 residents per year.

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

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

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One problem with knowing what those numbers mean for the GBSrate among adults living in the continental statess that it's hardto know whether current or past Zika infection patterns will repeatthemselves, or even what the full infection numbers really are,either in the United States or other countries.

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For a look at some of the numbers that are available, readon.

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1. Guillain-Barré syndrome in French Polynesia, Braziland other non-U.S. locations.

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Physicians first noticed Zika virus in the 1940s. Most caseswere "subclinical," meaning that the patients had no noticeablesymptoms, and most of the other cases were mild.

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Starting around 2007, another, somewhat more noticeable wave ofZika virus infections appearedto coincide with a spike in GBS cases in French Polynesia. Publichealth authorities had a hard time proving that Zika was directlyresponsible for the GBS cases, and about 80 percent of the Zikacases in French Polynesia were subclinical. But Zika appeared toinfect about 73 percent of all French Polynesian residents agesthree and older. The country recorded 42 GBS cases. That's theequivalent of about 16 GBS cases per 100,000 residents.

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In Brazil, officials have talked about seeing a sharp increasein the number of people with GBS but have not published a nationaltotal.

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In February, a reporter at the Independent, a United Kingdomnews organization, talked to just four large hospitals and learnedof 177 cases of GBS.

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In another country, Suriname, PAHOfigures suggest that about 1 percent of the patients withZika known to public health officials are developing GBS.

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See also: Zikamosquitoes: Already in 30 U.S. states

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Image: Vitalii Tkachuk

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2. Guillain-Barré syndrome in Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rico has a population of 3.5 million.

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The current GBS numbers imply that the total population ofPuerto Rico had an extra 0.14 GBS case per 100,000 residents in thepast few months.

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The country has had the equivalent of about 700 GBS cases per100,000 confirmed Zika infections.

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One question is what the ratio of confirmed cases to totalinfections is. A second question is what percentage of thepopulation will end up with Zika, and a third is whether people whodevelop Zika later will be as likely to develop GBS. Robert Maloneand other public health researchers suggested in a recent articlein PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, a medical journal, thatpatients who have Zika may be more likely to develop GBS if somefactor that is not known is present along with the Zika virus.

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If Puerto Rico has the same ratio of known Zika infections tosubclinical infections that people in French Polynesia have, itsresidents may have already had about 14,000 cases of Zika, and theactual rate of GBS for Zika patients there might be the equivalentof about 140 GBS cases per 100,000 Zika infections.

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If those estimates are correct, it may be that only about 0.4percent of the residents of Puerto Rico have had the Zika virus. If10 percent of the people there get Zika, and the current ratio ofZika infections to GBS cases holds, the commonwealth could end upwith more than 100 GBS cases.

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See also: SenateRepublicans preparing to relent on funding for Zika

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3. Guillain-Barré syndrome in the general U.S.population

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The United States normally averages about 3,000 patients to6,000 patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome per year, or aboutone or two per 100,000 residents, with typical medical treatmentcosts ranging from about $20,000 to $140,000 per patient, accordingto a RightDiagnosis.com summary of government condition impactdata.

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The United States has about 320 million residents.

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If widespread Zika infections increased the incidence of GBScases by about one per every 700,000 residents, that lead to morethan 400 additional GBS cases.

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If Zika increased the overall incidence of GBS to about one caseper 70,000 residents, or about one tenth of the rate in FrenchPolynesia, the United States could end up with more than 4,000additional GBS cases.

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See also: Zikafight starts to bite Republicans ahead of mosquitoseason

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Image: Vitalii Tkachuk

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4. Guillain-Barré syndrome in Canadians who've recentlyhad influenza.

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Another way to put Zika-related GBS in context is to look at thedata on GBS cases related to influenza and influenza vaccines.

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In 2013, for example, J.C.Kwong and other researchers reported that, in Canada, theflu seems to lead to about 1.7 GBS hospital admissions per 100,000cases of the flu, and a flu vaccination to about 0.1 GBS hospitaladmissions per 100,000 flu vaccinations.

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Allison Bell

Allison Bell, ThinkAdvisor's insurance editor, previously was LifeHealthPro's health insurance editor. She has a bachelor's degree in economics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @Think_Allison.