BALTIMORE, Md – (May 1, 2016) As most of the nation enters mosquito season, national and international experts will discuss up-to-date statistics about the spread of Zika virus and its anticipated impact domestically, and will offer resources that clinicians can use to better inform pregnant women. These insights will be highlighted during a special symposium about the Zika virus, co-led by a Children’s National Health System expert, during the 2016 Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Annual Meeting, the largest international meeting focused on research in child health.
“As the Zika virus epidemic continues to expand throughout Latin America, Central America, and U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, it’s the pediatricians who are answering questions on a day-to-day basis from worried patients,” says Roberta L. DeBiasi, MD, MS, Division Chief, Infectious Disease at Children’s National. “The PAS annual meeting, attended by thousands of the nation’s pediatricians, is an ideal setting to provide scientifically rigorous information about the Zika virus and the unique risk it poses to pregnant women and developing fetuses.”
Dr. DeBiasi was among six Children’s clinicians and research scientists who reported the surprising finding that the Zika virus lingered weeks longer than expected in the blood of a pregnant woman, a result that was published in late March in The New England Journal of Medicine. She also is among the co-chairs of the May 1 special symposium, ”Zika on Our Doorstep: Key Information for Pediatricians,” to be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Ballroom 1.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people infected with the Zika virus are asymptomatic or only experience mild symptoms, such as fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. For developing fetuses, however, Zika virus infection can result in severe brain defects including microcephaly, which is characterized by smaller-than-normal skulls and severe brain defects.
Symposium speakers include:
- Sonja Rasmussen, MD, MS, of the CDC, who will discuss the epidemiology of the Zika virus around the world, efforts to control the mosquito species responsible for its continued spread, and the international and national response to the epidemic.
- Marco A. Palazzi Sáfadi, MD, PhD, a pediatric expert based in Brazil, the global epicenter for these viral infections, who will discuss managing clinical care for patients, including Zika-affected mothers, newborns, and patients who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome, an uncommon neurological condition that can lead to muscle weakness and paralysis.
“Scientists around the world are left with more questions than answers about the current Zika virus epidemic,” Dr. DeBiasi said. “It is our hope that deepening the scientific knowledge about the Zika virus and applying cutting-edge technologies to our analyses will allow for pregnant women around the world to receive more accurate and timely information to guide their pregnancies.”
About the Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting
The Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting brings together thousands of individuals united by a common mission: To improve child health and wellbeing worldwide. This international gathering includes pediatric researchers, leaders in academic pediatrics, experts in child health, and practitioners.