Zika and kids: Must-read information for all parents in Singapore

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We know how Zika affects pregnant mums and their foetuses, but does it have the same devastating health consequences on infants, toddlers and older kids? Can the Zika virus pass to a child through breastmilk? What are the symptoms of Zika in your child? Read on for the answers to these questions and more.

The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease that first made headlines last year due its devastating impact on babies in their mothers’ womb.

If a pregnant mum contracts the disease, there is a risk her child will be born with a neurological condition known as microcephaly, which simply put, shrinks the brain.

News of the virus first emerged in Brazil and slowly but surely, the virus started spreading to other parts of the world, now hitting the shores of Singapore.

To find out about the effects of the Zika virus on a foetus during a woman’s pregnancy, click here for a comprehensive article.

This article will focus on another aspect of the virus: Zika and kids. How are babies and toddler impacted by this virus? If it harms unborn babies so much, what is the impact on little ones already born?

We spoke to Dr Leong Hoe Nam — a specialist in Infectious Diseases — of Rophi Clinic in Mt Elizabeth Novena Hospital to bring you information on this topic.

But first, a quick look at the Zika virus and what we know about it upto now.

zika and kids

If Zika is contracted during pregnancy, it may result in a condition known as microcephaly in the foetus, where the brain doesn’t grow to its normal size.

The Zika virus: Quick facts

  • The virus is carried by the Aedes mosquito, but any mosquito can transmit the disease if it bites an infected person.
  • Zika can also be (rarely) transmitted through blood transfusion, birth and sex, according to the World Health Organisation.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says only 1 in 5 people infected with the Zika virus becomes ill — they therefore don’t even know they are carrying the virus.
  • Symptoms appear three to seven days following a bite, and include low fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain and sometimes vomiting. In fact, the symptoms are quite similar to those of dengue.
zika and kids

Children can get Zika, but thankfully, it doesn’t seem to have the same devastating health impact it may have on a foetus.

The Zika virus and kids

Parents, you’ll be relieved to know that the Zika virus does not have the same devastating health consequences it may have on foetuses, when it comes to infants, toddlers and older kids.

Yet, it can still have some effect on a little one’s health and it’s good to know what you should be looking out for in terms of symptoms, and what you should do if you think your child has contracted the Zika virus.

The following information is based on Dr Leong’s answers to our questions, and the author’s own research.

Zika and kids: health impact

The Zika virus can infect children, explains Dr Leong. However, the severity of the illness does not differ from adults. Also, the virus does not have the devastating impact as that on foetuses.

In kids, unlike in foetuses, Zika does not appear to attack the brain, says paediatric neurologist Dr. James Bale. He adds that while brain infections, like encephalitis, are possible, they are rare.

As far as long-term effects of the infection on a child’s health is concerned, Stanford paediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. David Vu says that research in this area is just beginning; however so far, “any long-term impact is not yet determined.”

Parents, find out what the symptoms of Zika are and what you should do if you think your little one may have the virus. Please head to the next page for this and more, including information about mosquito repellents.  

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