Now that Zika virus has arrived in the US and with millions of American traveling to South and Central America, one would think that getting a test for Zika virus would be easy. Not so. To make matters worse, there are now close to a hundred cases of the Zika virus in Miami and the CDC has even placed a warning for pregnant women who want to travel to this destination. But getting a test for Zika virus is more difficult than one would think.
The public health department laboratories in both New York City and Miami are running at full steam and are inundated with requests for the Zika test. Some private companies have gained emergency approval to run the test for Zika virus but even they are running close to capacity.
Because there are only a few labs that can perform the test, only a few people are able to get tested at the moment, Thousands of women who wish to determine if they have been infected with the Zika virus, have to wait. The reason is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued strict guidelines to give priority to pregnant women with possible exposure to the Zika virus and people who are already demonstrating symptoms of Zika virus.
The CDC has strongly recommended that women who are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant avoid travel to areas where the Zika virus has been identified. Those who have traveled to these areas should wait at least 8 weeks before trying to conceive. But the CDC has not made testing mandatory in these women.
At the moment, testing guidelines for men are inconsistent. Although it is known that the virus can persist in sperm for several months after exposure, so far the CDC has stated that men who have been exposed to the virus have protected sexual intercourse for the first 8 weeks unless they have symptoms. On the other hand, the WHO has extended this recommendation to 6 months but neither agency has insisted on testing.
The chief reason for the restrictions of Zika virus is not to overburden the laboratories and clog up the system. Further, the CDC does not want doctors to start ordering the test and increase the cost of the health insurance. Testing for the Zika virus varies from $229 to $800 in private laboratories.