There are many things about the summer months that we can usually anticipate – warmer temperatures, rainfall, the arrival of mosquitoes. However, this summer, what remains unknown is how severely Zika will impact various parts of the United States, especially the vulnerable Gulf Coast, as well as how many pregnant women across the Americas will be adversely affected. With many signs pointing toward a significant impact, Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, emphasizes that we should expect new standards in child health as a result of Zika virus. His editorial on this topic appears today in JAMA Pediatrics.
Zika’s relationship to microcephaly, a condition in which the brain does not develop fully before birth, has been confirmed, but Hotez notes that there may be other neurological defects and developmental delays in children whose mothers were infected by Zika during pregnancy.
“The full pediatrics neurological and psychiatric impact of Zika virus infection will take time to sort out and may not be fully realized for years,” Hotez, who also is the Texas Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair in Tropical Pediatrics, said in the editorial.
He notes that we should anticipate a spectrum of neurologic and psychiatric illness and calls on pediatricians and those in pediatric subspecialties, including neurologists, psychiatrists, physiatrists, infectious disease experts and physician scientists, to come together to outline a plan for the diagnosis, clinical management and treatment of these illnesses. He also notes the importance of reaching across international borders to work with scientists around the world in achieving this approach.