How do I get Zika tested?
June 21, 2016 1:36 PM   Subscribe

My family spent the past 6 months living in the Caribbean where there is a Zika outbreak. During that time my wife, child, and I have all had unexplained illnesses which symptoms may have pointed to Zika. My spouse and I want to have a second child, so we have mothballed our life in the Caribbean and moved to the East Coast. We want to get tested for Zika before conceiving, I'd like to know if anyone has had experience with how to go about doing so, expediently. According to NYS doctors/state health departments/CDC they mandate that either: a) the woman is pregnant or b) the man is symptomatic before administering the test (note: only 1 in 5 men show symptoms...). We can travel to a different state to get tested. Does anyone have experience with getting Zika tested and how to do so without having to go through a ridiculous eligibility process?
posted by karst to Health & Fitness (4 answers total)
have you talked to a doctor?

as far as i can tell, from just googling around, a test was just recently approved for commercial use. but it detects the virus RNA in the blood and only works 4-7 days after you start showing symptoms. after that, it seems that you need to look for antibodies (serologic testing), and that is currently available for research use only (RUO label here).

so it may be that there's no commercial alternative at the moment. if you wait for a year i suspect things will be much easier...
posted by andrewcooke at 3:26 PM on June 21, 2016

Call your public health department. Because zika can be carried in sperm is important to know before hand.
you public health department will know who is doing what and where, and because you are a good candidate for testing (been in an active area, want to have unprotected sex and a child) they will refer (if anyone in your area is doing active testing).
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:38 PM on June 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

there's good info here which partly explains why the serologic testing is not routine - it's hard to interpret / unreliable.

also, if i understand that page correctly (it's not completely clear) the risk may only be if the woman becomes infected during pregnancy. so the main risk now may be that you wife is not infected, but you are, and that you infect her near to when she conceives. and it seems that risk may decline after 6 months. and all those "may"s seem to reflect lack of knowledge.

so really, you need to see a professional. it doesn't look like there is a magic bullet here - you will need to understand the pros and cons and make decisions with incomplete information.
posted by andrewcooke at 3:47 PM on June 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

andrewcooke's answer is excellent so I want to quote the relevant section of the linked site:

"An additional scenario for asymptomatic travellers includes men who have returned from an area with known or suspected Zika virus transmission with either a 1) pregnant partner or 2) partner with whom they are actively trying to conceive a child. Routine testing is not recommended in this context because interpreting the meaning of a negative Zika virus test is difficult is this scenario. For example, depending on the timing of the test, antibodies may not yet have developed in the traveller, making the test result falsely negative. The use of barrier methods (such as condoms) to prevent potential Zika virus transmission for 6 months following return from travel is currently the safest approach. As we learn more about Zika virus and the tests available, this recommendation will be updated as necessary. As every individual situation is unique, we encourage patients facing the above scenario to consult with their health care provider to discuss any special circumstances that might warrant testing."

These are not ridiculous eligibility requirements. There is a good reason that they exist.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:27 PM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

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