Women Facing a Zika Testing “Catch-22”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has placed strict guidelines on who can be tested for Zika virus. Labs all over the country are backed up with the increased demand for Zika testing because the test is a lengthy three-step procedure (Rabin). While these tests may not be very invasive, and may not require multiple samples, the process is dependent on many different factors (travel history, date of onset, immunization record) (Memorandum). First, a test is done for active virus in the blood or urine; however, this is only effective within the first two weeks after contraction (Rabin). Next, a test for antibodies is done. Since many people don’t show symptoms, these two tests are effectively useless because negatives results do not conclusively show that the patient was never exposed to the virus (Rabin). Lastly, a Plaque Reduction Neutralization Test (PRNT) is conducted, which is a test used for many different types of mosquito born illnesses, including Chikungunya and Dengue (Alvarez, Memorandum, Rabin). At the moment though, this last test is only being conducted by a small number of labs, including the CDC itself (Rabin).
The problem many women are now facing is the lack of preemptive testing. Women will not be tested unless they are pregnant, but women don’t want to get pregnant until they are tested. With over 70 cases reported in Florida, it seems reasonable that women trying to conceive would be apprehensive about fetal health because they could have been exposed to the virus, yet remain unaware of their status (Alvarez). Florida in particular has been backlogged with tests (Alvarez). In response, the CDC has sent down technicians to help move the testing along, as testing is time sensitive (Alvarez). However, the tests take 4-5 weeks to analyze, so speed may be difficult to come by (Rabin). As a result of their efforts, over 2,500 pregnant women have received free testing thanks to the CDC, but they are running out of funds quickly (Alvarez).
Alvarez, Lizette. "Florida Gets Help to Deal With Backlog of Zika Tests." The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 Sept. 2016. Web.
"Memorandum." Linguistics 9.66 (2016): n. pag. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 Feb. 2016. Web.
Rabin, Roni Caryn. "Want a Zika Test? It’s Not Easy." The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Sept. 2016. Web.