Children in the United States with Zika virus infection are often infected while traveling abroad and present with symptoms similar to those of other diseases, according to research published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Nicole P. Lindsey, MS, a CDC epidemiologist, told Infectious Diseases in Children that Zika virus (ZIKV) infection is generally mild in children. Although the clinical presentation and severity of diseases can often differ between children and adults, they found that the symptoms and severity ZIKV was similar.
The researchers assessed data from children who met the case definition for confirmed or probable ZIKV infection with symptom onset beginning between 2016 and 2017. All children (n = 141) were aged younger than 18 years and resided in California, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas or Virginia.
Most children infected were aged 12 to 17 years (64%), followed by children aged 5 to 11 years (30%) and children aged 1 to 4 years (5%). One child was aged younger than 1 year. Nearly all children (99%) were infected with ZIKV while traveling to a country or territory outside the U.S. Lindsey and colleagues said Mexico (n = 28), the Dominican Republic (n = 26) and Puerto Rico (n = 22) were the most commonly travel destinations. Two children were infected in Texas by mosquito transmission, they said.
According to the researchers, 89% (n = 125) of children had lab-confirmed ZIKV infection.
The researchers observed no neurologic signs or symptoms of ZIKV infection in children. The most commonly reported clinical signs and symptoms were rash (94%), fever (74%), arthralgia (48%) and conjunctivitis (51%). The rashes were most often maculopapular, and about half were pruritic.
Most children (87%) had two or more signs or symptoms, with 70% reporting fever and rash. More than half of the children had three or more signs and symptoms, and 18% had four.
In addition, 27% of children also presented with gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, and 26% presented with respiratory symptoms, such as sore throat and cough.
The researchers wrote that the signs and symptoms associated with ZIKV infection are similar to the those observed with other diseases, such as as chikungunya, dengue, measles, parvovirus, adenovirus, enterovirus, leptospirosis, rickettsiosis and group A streptococcal infection. However, they suggested that some clinical features may be more prominent with diseases that would be in the differential for an ill child who was exposed to mosquitoes in an area where ZIKV is circulating.
“Health care providers should consider a diagnosis of Zika virus infection in children with fever, rash, arthralgia or conjunctivitis, who reside in or have recently traveled to an area where Zika virus transmission is occurring,” Lindsey said. “Because chikungunya and dengue virus infections share a similar geographic distribution and symptoms with ZIKV, children with suspected ZIKV should be evaluated and managed for possible dengue or chikungunya virus infection until laboratory testing is completed.” – by Katherine Bortz
Disclosure: Lindsey reports no relevant financial disclosures.