Lima (AFP) - Peru has declared a health emergency in five regions, including Lima, after the deaths of at least four people linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that attacks the nervous system.
Health Minister Zulema Tomas said Sunday that in addition to the deaths there were currently 206 cases of the disease.
"We have an outbreak, there has been a brusque increase" since June 5, Tomas said on state-run TV Peru, adding that health authorities were taking steps to control and contain the disease.
While the syndrome is not contagious, a 90-day health emergency was declared because the current cases "have unusual and atypical characteristics that require rapid or immediate initial treatment," Peru's Institute of Neurological Sciences said.
The precise cause of the disorder is unknown, but most cases develop after a person has been sick with diarrhea or a respiratory infection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US says its research suggests that the syndrome is "strongly associated" with the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness.
The regions affected by GBS include three on the country's northern coast -- Piura, Lambayeque, La Libertad -- tourist destinations known for their archaeological sites and beaches.
Also included was the central region of Junin and Lima, which has nine million inhabitants.
Two deaths were reported in Piura, one in La Libertad and another in Junin.