The mosquito-borne Zika virus is currently circulating in 37 countries and territories, concentrated in Central America, the Caribbean and South America, but experts agree it’s set to spread to southern U.S. countries once the warm, moist summer weather hits. In light of this, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidelines for doctors on how to spot and treat the virus in kids.
Diagnosis can be challenging, according to the report, because most kids bitten by a Zika-carrying mosquito display mild symptoms—fever, rash (sometimes itchy), joint pain and irritated eyes—that look like other childhood illnesses. The CDC says that healthcare providers should suspect Zika in children who have travelled to or resided in an affected area within the past two weeks and exhibit at least two symptoms. There’s no vaccine or specific treatment, so the CDC recommends giving kids plenty of rest and fluids, and treating fever with acetaminophen and itching with antihistamines.
Because the virus is typically mild and symptoms pass within a few days, the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) doesn’t recommend testing kids for the Zika virus unless their illness is severe and the child has recently been to an area where Zika has spread.
While pregnant women have been advised to avoid travel to those affected areas because of the association with birth defects, including microcephaly, the CPS says all travellers, including children, should take measures to prevent mosquito bites. In its report, the CDC recommends insect repellents containing DEET at a maximum concentration of 30 percent for kids, and no repellent for infants younger than two months old.