Blog Series

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.

Ask the Experts: Hair Drug Test Collections

by Nicole Jupe on August 4, 2017

How much hair is needed for a drug test?Question: How much hair is needed for a drug test?

Rumors abound about exactly how much hair is snipped for a hair drug test. Some imagine they will suffer with a choppy, bad haircut or bald spot. Others fear they will lose their precious locks and require a hat wherever they go. In fact, quite the opposite is true if an individual visits a site with trained, professional collectors. At these drug test collection sites, the collector will only cut the small, specific amount of hair needed for the laboratory to perform the test. The hair is typically cut from the crown of the back of the head in a manner where it will not be as noticeable.

At Quest Diagnostics, our scientific experts have defined precise measurements for a hair test specimen collection. The amount of hair needed for a hair drug is approximately 100 milligrams made up of the first 1-½ inches from the root end. Since the weight of hair varies by individual and because drug testing collectors do not have access to highly sensitive weighing scales, it is easier to visualize the required quantity in terms of the width or diameter of the hair specimen collected.

If the hair is more than four inches long, the laboratory requires approximately 120 strands. If placed in a bundle this quantity of hair would resemble the circumference of a pencil; or if laid flat, would be approximately 1 centimeter in width. It is critical that the root ends of the cut hair are aligned and placed with the root ends extending about ¼ inch beyond the pointed portion of the arrow formed by the foil in the Quest collection kit. In order to approximate time of drug use (up to 90 days), the lab will cut and use about 1½ inches from the root end. If the collected hair is shorter than four inches, but longer than a ½ inch, additional strands of hair (in addition to the first 120 strands), or a larger quantity of hair is required to ensure an adequate amount of hair is received to complete testing. If the hair is curly, root ends do not have to be kept aligned and the hair sample size should resemble the size of a standard cotton ball.

If the donor has no head hair or hair shorter than ½ inch long, the collector may use chest, underarm, leg, or facial hair—in that order of preference. The amount collected should resemble a standard cotton ball. The collector should always note the source of the hair sample on the hair collection envelope. This will aid in a more accurate interpretation of the drug test result. If body hair is collected, the collector must make sure to collect as much hair as possible. Body hair is usually lighter in weight and more hair is needed for testing.

These detailed collection protocols should reassure donors that only a minimal amount of hair is cut for a drug screening and stress the importance of a trained collector.

Visit our Hair Testing FAQs for more frequently asked questions about hair testing.

For more information about drug testing, visit our website or contact us online.

Ask the Experts: Drug Testing Cutoffs

July 18, 2017Drug Testing

Question: Can you explain cutoff levels for laboratory-based drug testing? In workplace drug testing, the industry standard process involves two-tiered testing – an initial screen on one portion of the specimen, followed by a confirmatory test on a second portion of the original specimen. The initial test is designed to separate negative specimens from further […]

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America’s Favorite Illicit Drug: Marijuana

July 7, 2017Illicit drugs

Marijuana is the product of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, containing the psychoactive chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Despite its illegal status, the drug reigns as America’s favorite and most commonly detected illicit drug. Since the 1920s, marijuana has been the subject of myths and propaganda while also being glamorized by pop culture, movies, and television. Attitudes relaxed in […]

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Mapping Drug Use in the U.S. Workforce

June 9, 2017Drug Testing

Which drugs are popular in my county? How does workplace drug use in my state compare to the rest of the country? Has drug use in the American workforce changed significantly during the past decade? Employers, media, government, and policymakers frequently look to Quest Diagnostics for insights about their specific geographies. These inquiries are especially […]

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Cocaine Continues Upward Trend

June 1, 2017Drug Testing

Cocaine is derived from the coca plant native to South America where many chew its leaves to squash pain, thirst, hunger, and fatigue. By the 1880s, doctors as famous as Sigmund Freud were studying cocaine as a “miracle drug” as an anesthetic for surgery and for a variety of health conditions including anxiety, addiction, and […]

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Increases in Illicit Drugs, Including Cocaine, Drive Workforce Drug Positivity to Highest Rate in 12 Years

May 16, 2017Drug Testing

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) reveals insights into patterns of drug use among the American workforce. It has been published annually for more than 25 years as a public service for government, employers, policymakers, media, and the general public. This year’s report will be presented at the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association […]

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Prescription Misuse Epidemic Affects 7 in 10 Employers

May 11, 2017Drug Testing

As one of the nation’s leading safety advocates, the National Safety Council (NSC) spotlights issues in an effort to “eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy.” The organization has identified prescription drug misuse as one of its key safety issues because of the […]

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An Exploration of Addiction: The Teen Years

May 5, 2017An Exploration of Addiction

Recreational drug and alcohol use is oftentimes perceived as harmless, non-habit-forming behavior. In reality millions suffer from substance-abuse disorders that surfaced under the mask of recreational use. In this installment of our Exploration of Addiction series, we examine how addiction can take hold when our brains are at their most vulnerable and when life is […]

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Series: An Exploration of Addiction

March 21, 2017Blog Series

The term “recreational” defines as an activity done for enjoyment when one is not working. Skiing, knitting, sporting leagues, and book clubs are examples of recreational activities that can enhance our overall life experience. Recreational is also a word used to describe the casual use of mind-altering substances such as drugs and alcohol. Because recreational […]

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