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Zika Spotlight: Frequently Asked Questions

by Pablo Bolanos on August 9, 2017

The height of mosquito season has arrived and as we wrap up our summer clinical testing spotlight—Zika, Past, Present and Futurewe realize that all of the information about the disease, its potential effects, and all of the preventive measures can be overwhelming. For that reason, we’ve narrowed down some of the most important points to remember about Zika.

Q: What is the Zika virus and how is it transmitted?

A: Zika virus infection is a disease caused by a virus transmitted primarily by the Aedes mosquitoes, typically found in tropical locations. The virus can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy. Although rare, Zika can also be spread through sexual activity, blood transfusion, and laboratory exposure.

Q: Where has the Zika virus been documented?

A: Since 2015, Zika outbreaks have occurred in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, Pacific Islands, and Brazil. By March 2016, ZIKV had spread to 33 countries with over 1.5 million cases reported, increasing to 40 countries as of July 2016. In the United States, from January 1, 2015 to September 6, 2017, 5,411 symptomatic Zika virus cases were reported.

Q: Who is at risk for Zika virus infection?

A: Anyone who lives or travels to areas where the Aedes mosquitoes are found may be at risk.

Q: What are the signs and symptoms of Zika virus infection?

A: Most people infected do not display symptoms. Those who do, experience mild symptoms such as fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes, and muscle pain which typically last several days up to one week. However, a pregnant woman, even one without symptoms, can pass Zika to her developing fetus. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects.

Q: What is the potential risk of Zika infection during pregnancy?

A: Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus.  Infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.  Microcephaly is a birth defect in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age.  Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly.  It is not clear how likely it is that Zika infection will affect pregnancy, nor if a baby will have birth defects if the mother is infected while pregnant.

 Q: Who should be tested for a Zika infection?

A:

CDC recommends Zika virus testing for:

  • Anyone with possible Zika virus exposure* who has or recently experienced symptoms of Zika.
  • Symptomatic pregnant women with possible Zika virus exposure
  • Asymptomatic pregnant women with ongoing possible Zika virus exposure
  • Pregnant women with possible Zika virus exposure who have a fetus with prenatal ultrasound findings consistent with congenital Zika virus infection

Zika testing may be considered for:

  • Asymptomatic pregnant women with recent possible but no ongoing exposure to Zika virus (i.e., travelers)

Zika virus testing is not recommended for:

  • Non-pregnant asymptomatic individuals
  • Preconception screening

Q: Which tests are recommended for diagnosing Zika virus infection?

A: CDC-recommended tests include Zika viral RNA and/or antibody tests.

Q: Where can I get more information?

A: Additional information about Zika may be found directly through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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Zika Spotlight: How to Prevent the Spread

by Pablo Bolanos on July 28, 2017

Mosquitoes are often considered a nuisance, whose role in nature is questioned by anyone who has to do anything outdoors during the sweltering heat of the summer months. This is especially true when these insects carry infectious, sometimes life-threatening diseases. With mosquito season in full swing, our clinical spotlight for the summer focuses on the Zika virus, because educational insights add to the preventive efforts aimed at lessening its spread.

Even though the virus has faded from the headlines, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently reports more than 2,000 Zika virus infections within the U.S. and an additional 4,285 infections in U.S. territories. Although significant, these numbers are a fraction of the staggering numbers experienced in places like Puerto Rico during the height of the 2016 epidemic, where the first half of the year saw more than 5,000 reported cases in that country alone.

During the past year, the CDC has flooded the public with educational material, statistics, and insights in an effort to minimize further infection. As a result, preventive measures are better understood throughout the world. However, more recent Zika outbreaks in the Americas sparked the need for a refresher course on mosquito bite prevention:

The rapid spread of the virus yielded comprehensive studies about its key identifiers and laboratory testing services, both invaluable tools for pregnant women who may be at risk of infection. Additionally, the public have amassed a robust library of educational materials, made possible in large part to the efforts of the CDC and lessons learned throughout the world about the struggles with mosquito-borne diseases.

The treatments of mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria have been handed down through generations. However, in the late 19th century, Ronald Ross, a British officer in the Indian Medical Service, was the first to demonstrate that malaria parasites could be transmitted from infected patients to mosquitoes. In the decades that followed, scientific advancements resulted in information about mosquito bite prevention—and chemicals such as dichloro-ciphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT)—to help control the spread of diseases such as yellow fever, West Nile virus, and now Zika. Thankfully, historical knowledge paired with modern science has helped to suppress the spread of a virus that was at the cusp of reaching epidemic proportions.

There is no known cure for Zika virus. That said, we know how mosquitoes transmit the virus, the signs of infection, and preventative measures for pregnant women can take when traveling to known Zika hotspots to reduce risks to fetuses. In fact, the CDC recommends that pregnant women do not travel to these areas if at all possible. Despite a decrease of infections worldwide, Zika is still a concern according to the CDC.

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Zika Spotlight: Past, Present, and Future

July 11, 2017Drug Testing

“At first I thought Emanuelle was just a tiny baby but I noticed she wasn’t developing like my nephew of the same age. At four months she couldn’t sit down properly and was very floppy and didn’t move around at lot.” Emanuelle’s mother, Vanessa, found out the heart-breaking news that her baby had a mild […]

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Simple and Seamless Clinical Testing

July 7, 2016Clinical testing

Preventative health checks, workplace wellness screenings, and first-to-market tests for viruses like H1N1 and Zika can all be performed at Quest Diagnostics laboratories. For the vast majority of patient, physician and employer encounters with Quest, doing business with us is as simple as setting up an account and leveraging a local Patient Service Center and […]

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