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Zika Virus in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

What is Zika virus?

Zika virus is carried by mosquitos. Your child may be infected with Zika virus through the bite of an infected mosquito. You may pass Zika virus to your child during your pregnancy. If your child is infected with Zika virus during your pregnancy, he or she may be born with birth defects such as microcephaly. Microcephaly causes your child to have a head and brain that is smaller than normal. Microcephaly also causes learning and development problems.

What increases my child's risk for Zika virus?

Your child may be at risk for Zika virus infection if he or she travels or lives in an area with infected mosquitos. Mosquitoes are usually found near water. Examples include ponds, buckets of water, animal dishes, and flower pots. Infected mosquitoes bite most often during the day.

What are the signs and symptoms of Zika virus?

Your child may not have signs or symptoms of Zika virus. If your child develops signs or symptoms, they may happen suddenly and last for 2 to 7 days. Your child may have any of the following:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Red or itchy eyes

How is Zika virus infection diagnosed?

  • Your child's healthcare provider will examine your child and ask about symptoms. Tell the provider if your child has traveled recently. Your child's blood and urine may be tested for infection.
  • Newborns who are delivered by infected mothers will be tested for Zika virus. Blood and urine may be taken from your newborn. Fluid may also be taken from your baby's cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). CSF surrounds your baby's brain and spinal cord. Your newborn may need an ultrasound to check the size of his or her skull and brain. If your newborn tests positive for Zika virus, he or she may need other tests. These tests will check for health problems caused by Zika, such as trouble hearing.

How is Zika virus treated?

There is no treatment for Zika virus. Your child may be monitored in the hospital. Medicine may be given to manage your child's symptoms. This may include medicine to decrease pain and fever.

What are the risks of Zika virus?

Zika virus may cause temporary or permanent weakness or paralysis. Rarely, Zika virus may become life-threatening.

What can I do to manage my child's symptoms?

  • Give your child plenty of liquids as directed. Liquids can prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid to give your child each day and which liquids are best for him or her.
  • Have your child rest as directed. Ask your child's healthcare provider when he or she can return to normal activities.

What can I do to prevent Zika virus infection?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent Zika virus infection. Do not travel or bring your child to areas where Zika virus is common. Ask your child's healthcare provider where it is safe to travel. Prevent mosquito bites to help decrease your child's risk for infection:

  • Apply insect repellent to your child. Ask your child's healthcare provider which insect repellent is right for your child. Follow directions on the insect repellent container. The following is a list of tips for insect repellent use:
    • Do not apply insect repellent to a child younger than 2 months. Instead, dress your child in clothing that covers his or her arms and legs.
    • Do not apply insect repellent to skin under clothing.
    • Apply sunscreen to your child before you apply insect repellent.
    • Put insect repellent on your child any time he or she will be outside. Put insect repellent on your child at all times if you travel or live in a high-risk area. Reapply insect repellent as directed.
    • Do not apply insect repellent to a child's hands, eyes, mouth, or open skin.
    • To apply insect repellent to a child's face, first apply it to your hands. Then apply it to the child's face. Do not touch the child's eyes or mouth with your hands.
    • Apply insect repellent to your child every day for 3 weeks after he or she travels to high-risk areas.
  • Apply insect repellent to your child's clothing and gear. This includes boots, pants, socks, and tents. Do this when your child camps, hikes, or plays outside. You can also buy clothing and gear that comes with insect repellent already on it.
  • Dress your child in a long-sleeved shirt and pants. This will protect your child's skin from mosquito bites.
  • Use screens and nets. Use a mosquito net around your child's bed. Cover your child's cribs, strollers, and baby carriers with mosquito nets. When you travel, choose a place to stay with screens on all windows and doors. Place screens over windows and doors in your home. Fix holes or tears in screens and nets, or buy new screens and nets.
  • Keep doors and windows closed. If possible, use air conditioning to cool your home.
  • Clean and empty containers of water once a week. Examples are animal bowls, buckets of water, gutters, flower vases, and bird baths. Mosquitoes lay eggs near water. Empty the water and scrub these containers with soap and water. Keep water containers covered with a tight-fitting lid, when possible.
  • Use insect sprays inside and outside of your home. Use an insect spray that is safe to use inside of your home. Place a device that sprays mosquitoes outside of your home. Place it in a dark, cool, area. Ask your healthcare provider where to buy these items. Follow directions that come with these products.

Where can I get the most up-to-date information on Zika virus?

Knowledge about Zika virus is changing quickly. Get the most up-to-date information at:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Information on Zika Virus
    1600 Clifton Road
    Atlanta , GA 30329
    Phone: 1- 800 - 232-4636
    Web Address:

Where can I get information and support if my baby was born with microcephaly?

Caring for a baby born with microcephaly can be difficult. You may need help and support to care for your baby. Your baby's growth and development will need to be closely monitored. For more information and support:

  • CDC: Information for Families of Newborns Affected by Zika
    1600 Clifton Road
    Atlanta , GA 30329
    1600 Clifton Road
    Atlanta , GA 30329
    Phone: 1- 888 - 232-4027
    Web Address:

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child stops urinating or urinates less than usual.
  • The soft spot on your child's head is sunken inward or bulging outward.
  • Your child has trouble walking.
  • Your child is confused.

When should I call my child's doctor?

  • Your child's temperature is higher than 100.4°F (38°C).
  • Your child has new symptoms.
  • Your child has a fever for more than 24 hours.
  • Your child has trouble breastfeeding or eating.
  • Your child's symptoms do not get better in 1 week, or they get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.