Zika virus typically mild in children

October 3, 2016 Providence Health Team

The Zika virus poses a serious health danger to unborn babies but according to a new report it only mildly affects children.

Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at the cases of the first 158 children reported with the Zika virus in the U.S. and found that the disease is “typically mild in children, as it is in adults.”

The median age of the children in the study was 14. Girls made up 56 percent of the reported cases, and five were pregnant.

Zika has been linked to other diseases and is suspected of causing meningitis, Guillain-Barré syndrome and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). None of the 158 children whose cases were reviewed by the CDC contracted these illnesses.

Zika spreading across U.S.

Two children were hospitalized, one for three days because of fever, cough and “poor oral intake,” which could mean lack of appetite or nausea. A second child was hospitalized overnight for cough and rash. “No children with Zika virus disease died,” the researchers wrote.

Zika has rapidly spread throughout the U.S. and this was reflected in the CDC’s report. A total of 30 states claimed pediatric cases, with the highest number, 36, in Florida. New York reported 17 cases and California had 15 cases. All of the children in the report had contracted Zika in countries or territories where mosquito-borne transmission has been documented.

Mild symptoms

The reported symptoms among children with the Zika virus are common to many childhood illnesses, which can make it difficult to recognize. In addition to fever and rash, other symptoms include muscle or joint pain, headache, pain behind the eyes and conjunctivitis.

Still, the CDC team advises health care providers to consider testing for Zika if a child has a sudden onset of symptoms and lives in or has traveled to an area where the virus has been reported.

No treatment for the virus

There are no medications available to treat a Zika virus infec­tion. The CDC recommends treating the most common symptoms by getting plenty of rest and drinking fluids. 

“Aspirin should never be used to treat symptoms of acute viral illnesses in children because of the risk for Reye syndrome,” the researchers wrote.  

The CDC also says no one should take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen until dengue fever is ruled out. All children under age 6 should not be given NSAIDs.

“Protecting children from mosquito bites is the best way to pre­vent Zika virus infection in children,” the CDC team said. 

Learn more about Zika

You can read the CDC report “Characteristics of Children Aged <18 Years with Zika Virus Disease Acquired Postnatally — U.S. States, January 2015–July 2016” by clicking here.

Providence’s Charles Saltalamacchia, M.D., offers helpful insights on the Zika virus here.

The World Health Organization has extensive information about the virus, including its history.

If you and your family plan to travel and want to know the areas where cases of Zika have been reported, visit the CDC website.

If you have questions or want to learn more about how to protect your family from Zika, talk with your health care provider. You can find a Provider provider in this multistate directory

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