Two dozen people along the Arizona-Mexico border have developed a rare, life-threatening illness often linked to a bacterial infection transmitted through food or water. The cluster of cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome were reported in Yuma County, Arizona, and just across the border in San Luis Rio Colorado in Mexico’s northern Sonora state. Seven of the 24 cases were reported in the United States, and the remaining 17 were diagnosed in Mexico.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare autoimmune disease that typically affects only one in 100,000 people each year. It causes muscle weakness and tingling in the arms and legs, which can lead to paralysis, respiratory problems and in some cases, death.
Arizona health authorities are working closely with federal and state agencies in Sonora to determine the cause of the outbreak. The agencies are focusing on water- or food-born contamination as a possible cause and hope to curtail the problem before it infects more people.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome is not transmitted from person-to-person contact. Individuals living in or traveling into the area are advised to wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, and before cooking and eating.
The investigation into the cluster of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases is the first joint investigation involving travel across the border between U.S. and Mexican health officials.