Clinical testing

Clinical Spotlight: Hepatitis C

by Pablo Bolanos on October 19, 2017

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and a leading cause of liver cancer and transplants. An estimated 2.7-3.9 million people in the United States are infected with the virus. Nicknamed “a silent disease,” the vast majority—at least 50%— of HCV cases go undiagnosed and many result in fatalities that could have been prevented. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if undiagnosed, the condition can escalate from a treatable to a chronic infection in 70-85% of those infected.

One subset of the population is particularly at risk; Baby Boomers. This generation—born between 1945 and 1965—is 5 times more likely to have hepatitis C than other adults. To put it in perspective, of all people diagnosed with the disease, approximately 3 in 4 are boomers. The reason for their higher susceptibility is not entirely known. One theory suggests baby boomers had greater exposure to contaminated blood and blood products before widespread screenings were the norm in the medical industry.

Health officials estimate that one-time testing of all Baby Boomers could prevent more than 120,000 hepatitis C virus-related deaths. Timely diagnosis, therefore, is critical to beginning treatment early.  Once diagnosed, patients have various options for treatment based on the stage of the disease as well as therapies that can help limit further disease.

Guidelines recommend screening for HCV for anyone who:

  • Was born between 1945 and 1965
  • Was or is currently an injection drug user
  • Received transfusions or organ transplants prior to July 1992
  • Has additional risk factors or medical conditions

In the end, there is hope and reason to believe that taking proactive action may have long-term positive consequences on the future of the disease, especially because, if it is caught in time, Hep C is preventable. Dr Bruce Bacon, Professor of Internal Medicine, Saint Louis University of School and Medicine, is optimistic about the future of hepatitis C virus management saying, “If we find the patients and treat them appropriately, we could essentially eradicate hepatitis C.”

For patient and physician resources about hepatitis C, visit our website.

To set up a nationwide hepatitis C screening program, contact our dedicated team.

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.

For additional information our broad testing menu and clinical testing, visit our website or contact us online.

Zika Spotlight: How to Prevent the Spread

July 28, 2017Drug Testing

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 […]

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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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