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Signs Your Child Might Have Zika That Are Too Important To Ignore

Given the level of international concern surrounding Zika virus, the thought of a child getting infected is understandably scary. The good news: Zika virus often causes few complications in otherwise healthy children. Though symptoms of Zika virus can be difficult to detect, it's important to know what to look for: there are signs your child might have Zika that shouldn't be ignored.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidelines in February 2016 offering advice regarding when physicians should test infants and children for Zika:

Acute Zika virus disease should be suspected in an infant or child aged <18 years who 1) traveled to or resided in an area with ongoing transmission of Zika virus within the past 2 weeks and 2) has ≥2 of the following manifestations: fever, rash, conjunctivitis [pink eye], or arthralgia [joint pain].

The same advice applies to new mothers: if they gave birth within two weeks of exposure to the virus and exhibit any of the listed symptoms, their baby may need to be tested given the possibility of congenital transmission. Other potential symptoms of Zika virus include headache and malaise, according to the World Health Organization. Some manifestations of the virus may disappear in as little as two days, but most symptoms should resolve in a week.

Zika virus is primarily a concern due to more unusual complications: physicians identified a link between infection and the development of microcephaly in infants, WHO reported; that link is what makes it potentially dangerous for pregnant women to contract the virus. It may also be tied to Guillain-Barré syndrome. An autoimmune disease, Guillain-Barré syndrome often has a sudden onset, Boston Children's Hospital reported. It may begin with weakness in the extremities before advancing to include pain or even partial paralysis. The disease is uncommon; when a child does develop Guillain-Barré syndrome, it's likely he or she won't have any symptoms for several weeks. That being said, it's still essential to take a symptomatic child to the doctor for an evaluation. Though complications are rare, they can be severe and require hospitalization.

Unfortunately, there is no formal treatment for Zika virus, according to the CDC; vaccines aren't available yet. Recovering from the virus is a lot like recovering from the flu: patients need sleep and hydration, and they may be able to take a drug recommended by a physician to alleviate a fever. Luckily, most individuals who get Zika virus can expect to make a full and fast recovery.