‘Don’t underestimate any fever,’ warns Director Venky Kudumula; highlights Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Kudumula lost his cousin to a rare condition called GB Syndrome, the first presenting sign of which is fever. Doctors explain what Guillain-Barré Syndrome is.

ByChetana Belagere

Published Nov 09, 2023 | 12:00 PM Updated Nov 09, 2023 | 12:00 PM

Tollywood Direct Venky Kudumula shares the loss of his cousin to a rare neurological conditions and warns others to seek timely help. (X)

Director Venky Kudumula recently shared a heart-wrenching post on social media about the untimely demise of a young cousin due to a rare medical condition called GB Syndrome — Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

In a post on X. he warns the public about GB Syndrome and discloses that his cousin had first presented with a fever that he ignored.

He added that his cousin’s life could have been saved had he sought timely medical intervention.

What is GB Syndrome or GBS?

Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) may not be a household name, but for those affected by this neurological disorder, its impact is profound.

Dr Sudhir Kumar, Consultant Neurologist at Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad, tells South First, “GBS is a disorder of the nervous system, mainly the peripheral nervous system. The nerves of the hands and legs are commonly affected.”

It is characterised by the body’s immune system attacking the peripheral nerves, which can lead to weakness, numbness, and even paralysis.

Dr Kumar says that the paralysis usually starts in the legs and within hours or days, the paralysis ascends upwards and affects the hands too.

“If not treated, the patient becomes completely paralysed within a short period of four to five days and, in most cases, they can experience difficulty in swallowing, speaking, and even breathing. About five percent may even need to be on a ventilator,” Dr Kumar explains.

This condition witnesses acute onset and is a progressive illness. “GBS can be life-altering. In severe cases, it can cause total paralysis. It can even be life-threatening if it affects the muscles required for breathing,” Dr Kumar explains.

Also read: Night sweats could be a big ‘red flag’, say doctors

What causes GBS?

The exact cause of GBS is not known, but it is often preceded by an infectious illness, such as a viral or bacterial infection, respiratory infection, or even a stomach flu.

In his note on X, Director Kudumula advised people not to ignore any kind of fever, especially post-Covid-19.

“My cousin had on and off fever for a couple of weeks but didn’t go to the doctor on time, assuming it is just a fever,” he wrote, “It turned out to be a rare medical condition called GB syndrome, followed by a few other concerns too, which if treated on time could have been cured.”

“Post Covid, NO FEVER IS JUST A FEVER..” he added, emphatically.

A recent study confirms the same. A study from Israel found a connection between Covid-19 infection and a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) within six weeks.

Dr Kumar says, “Usually during a viral illness, the body produces antibodies to fight against the infection. These antibodies damage the nerves. GBS is a type of autoimmune disease essentially. It can occur after any viral infection, including Covid-19 infection.”

Also read: Why a Chennai hospital had to stop a man’s beating heart to cure him

GBS diagnosis and symptoms

Doctors South First spoke to say that GBS symptoms include:

  • weakness or pain that starts in the lower part of the body and moves upward
  • sudden unsteady walking or inability to walk or climb stairs
  • sudden difficulty with eye movements, facial movements, speaking, chewing, or swallowing

If anyone is experiencing such symptoms, especially following a respiratory or gastrointestinal illness, immediate medical attention is warranted to assess for GBS or other neurological conditions.

Dr Kumar explains that the first step to diagnosis GBS is clinical examination. He says that if the person has weakness of the legs and hands, then doctors should check the deep tender reflexes, which are usually absent in cases of GBS.

Nerve conduction studies should also be done, he says, as well as a lumbar puncture as there will be changes in the CSF proteins.

Also read: Stand on 1 leg for 10 seconds. If you can’t, you need to take this test

How to treat GBS

The typical treatment for GBS involves hospitalisation, often in the intensive care unit, in order to closely monitor the patient’s respiratory function and other vital signs.

Therapies include plasma exchange (plasmapheresis) and high-dose immunoglobulin therapy. Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the recovery process to regain strength and mobility.

This year, in Mumbai, doctors reported that the incidence of GBS cases was considerably higher, ranging from 30 percent to 50 percent, compared to the usual numbers seen during the monsoon season, when such cases typically see a mild increase, stated news reports.

The ICMR, CDC, and the World Health Organization (WHO) are closely monitoring these cases to understand better the potential triggers of GBS and to improve preventative strategies.

Doctors reiterate that it is essential for individuals to seek medical care if they experience any unusual symptoms following an illness, as early diagnosis and treatment of GBS can significantly affect the outcome.

Understanding the link between preceding infections and the onset of GBS is crucial, as is recognising the unique symptoms of the syndrome to avoid confusion with less serious conditions.