Hot on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declaring that potential fathers should wait to try to conceive for at least six months following a potential Zika exposure, and after months of seemingly never-ending scary headlines about the mosquito borne illness, finally, finally there is some good news about the virus.
The CDC says Zika does not seem to impact kids more severely than adults, which answers the question that has been on many parents' minds for quite some time. We already know the virus causes mostly-mild symptoms in everyone except pregnant women, whose babies may develop severe birth defects such as microcephaly and developmental delays. But how Zika affects children outside the womb has not been well documented, until now.
Dr. Alyson Goodman of the CDC and her team looked at the first 158 kids to contract the illness postnatally, so in other words, their Zika status had nothing to do with their mothers' pregnancies. All of them were infected abroad. According to the report, "The places most frequently visited were the Dominican Republic (39 patients), Puerto Rico (26), Honduras (17), Nicaragua (17), and Jamaica (14)."
Only two of the children were hospitalized for things like cough and rash, and thankfully, none of them passed away. Furthermore, none of the kids in the study group developed serious symptoms linked to Zika, such as meningitis, encephalitis, or Guillain-Barré syndrome, a kind of paralysis. According to Dr. Goodman, the data supports previous reports that Zika manifests mildly in most people, young or older.
In fact, plenty of people get Zika and don't even know it, compounding the problem of containing the virus. Some will get symptoms like rash, fever, pinkeye, and body aches, but as most parents have experienced, those could also be symptoms of many other viruses. "The symptoms most frequently reported among children with Zika virus disease are common to many childhood illnesses," agreed Dr. Goodman's team. Therefore, it's also likely that many kids with Zika have not been diagnosed.
It's important to note this is only the first report about this group of Zika-infected kids, so we'll need to watch for updates, and of course, no matter how mildly Zika seemingly affects most kids, it's still advisable to avoid the virus whenever possible. That means following travel advisories, per the CDC, and protecting kids against mosquito bites. And for teens and adults, that also means practicing safe sex after a potential exposure for up to six months, even if you or your partner do not show signs of being infected.
The researchers also included a medication safety message in their report, writing, "Aspirin should never be used to treat symptoms of acute viral illnesses in children because of the risk for Reye syndrome. All nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should be avoided in children younger than 6 months." They added that Tylenol is the preferred way to treat fever in kids.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.