Last week, a study came out that predicted how, where, and when Zika might take hold here in the United States. Basically, the virus is likely to spread across the country as temperatures rise this spring and summer. While the potential is greater for mosquitoes to breed disease in hot and humid climates like those found in Southern Florida and Texas, no city is totally immune to an outbreak.
Given the strong possibility that Zika will infect Americans here at home, and its continued rapid rise abroad, the CDC has published new diagnosis and treatment guidelines that will appear in the May 2016 edition of Pediatrics. The recommendations will help doctors recognize symptoms of an infection in kids.
As has been widely reported, in the vast majority of cases, the virus does not cause serious symptoms, but rather a mild fever, rash, pink eye, and joint pain. And as the report, "Zika Virus Disease: A CDC Update for Pediatric Health Care Providers," points out, most infants and kids with Zika will present with symptoms resembling many other common childhood illnesses.
This obviously presents a very frustrating challenge.
Meanwhile, because we are still learning more about how this virus affects various people, it's crucial that doctors know how to test for and treat it early. In severe Zika cases, instances of Guillain-Barre, a neurological syndrome that causes paralysis, have been noted. And, of course, it's now strongly believed if a pregnant woman contracts Zika at any point in her gestation, her baby is put at a higher risk for a wide range of defects, from microcephaly, a form of brain damage that results in a smaller-than-average head, to death.
For now, no vaccine is available to prevent infection, but experts are working to develop one. In the meantime, the CDC advises health care providers to suspect mosquito-borne transmission of the virus in kids who have traveled to, or lived in, an area with a current outbreak within the past two weeks, and who exhibit two or more symptoms consistent with an infection.
According to the press release, treatment simply consists of supportive care, including rest and fluids.
The takeaway: Your child's pediatrician will likely be talking to you about your child's Zika risk, and what you need to do if you suspect an infection. These are scary times; but it's better to be as informed and prepared as we can be.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.