The Zika virus is a virus of the family Flaviviridae that is spread primary by the Aedes aegypti female mosquito during the day. The Zika virus is named after the Ziika Forest in Uganda and was first discovered in the late 1940s. The recent Zika virus epidemic started in 2015 in Brazil and has since spread to most of North America, Central America and South America. Brazil, in particular, had reports of over 1.5 million affected people.
In humans, an infected person can spread the Zika virus through sex or blood transfusions. Zika infections can also cause birth defects when infecting women who are pregnant as the virus can spread from a pregnant mother to her fetus.
Many Zika virus infections cause no symptoms or symptoms that are hardly noticeable. When symptomatic, a Zika virus infection looks similar to a mild flu. Symptoms may consist of general fatigue, fever, rash, muscle aches, or headaches and typically last for up to 7 days.
A Zika blood test can be a helpful way to screen for the Zika virus after a possible exposure. The Zika virus antibody IgM test (MAC-ELISA) offered through Push Health is one such test. This IgM blood test reports a qualitative result for Zika IgM antibodies. Zika IgM levels can be variable but are generally positive 4 days after an infection with symptoms and can stay positive for 12 weeks or more.
To get a Zika test near you at a Quest Diagnostics lab, click the button to start the lab request process. Please fill out the required medical information, select a convenient Quest lab location, and submit payment for your test. As soon as you do so, licensed medical providers in your state will be immediately notified and your lab order will be approved as soon as we can find one to order your Zika blood test for you. Typically, it takes under 30 minutes to get a Zika test approved. If, for whatever reason, Push Health cannot find a licensed medical provider who is willing to order the Zika virus test for you, you will be refunded.
Because Zika has similar molecular features to several other types of infections (e.g. dengue, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile, and yellow fever), it is possible for a screening Zika test to come back positive incorrectly (i.e. false positive). As such, positive results are not considered definitive for a Zika virus infection and confirmatory testing should be performed if someone tests positive. Confirmatory testing for Zika virus is particularly necessary because there is not much research on how Zika antibody levels change over time given the recency of Zika infections and the current state of Zika testing. Confirmatory testing is typically done through a government laboratory as public health authorities should be involved in the United States when positive test results occur.
Zika lab test results can also be negative in the setting of a real Zika infection - so-called false negatives. The most common reason for a false negative Zika virus test result is because the blood test was performed before the IgM antibody levels were elevated enough to be detected. Typically, this can occur when someone gets their blood drawn for testing too soon after an exposure. In rare cases, an infected person may not have a strong enough immune system to produce enough antibodies because they have a chronic condition that suppresses the immune system (e.g. AIDS) or they are taking medications that do (e.g. chemotherapy).
Another thing to note about the Zika virus lab test is that it was approved under the Food and Drug Administration's Emergency Use Authorization and is not technically FDA cleared or approved. Approvals under Emergency Use Authorization can be thought of as a fast-track approval process for lab tests that are helpful in the setting of a public health emergency like a widespread Zika epidemic.
Unfortunately, there is no Zika vaccine and no treatment for a Zika infection at this time. To date, most Zika infections are not severe enough to require someone to be hospitalized. Rarely, there have been associations between a Zika virus infection and Guillain-Barre syndrome, a severe neurological illness. Current research suggests that people become immune to Zika after getting a Zika virus blood infection.
Precautions that reduce a bite from an infected mosquito in a high-risk area can minimize the risk of getting a Zika infection. Specific precautions include wearing long sleeves (shirts and pants) and even treating your clothing with approved insect repellants containing DEET or similar ingredients as per the manufacturer's instructions. Additionally, sleeping under mosquito nets and sleeping in enclosed, air-conditioned dwellings might be beneficial. Pregnant women or anyone concerned about getting the Zika virus should not travel to areas where Zika cases have been reported.
Men can transmit a Zika virus infection to a pregnant partner through semen. Sexual transmission was documented in six countries in 2015. As such, it is recommended that men with pregnant partners abstain from sex or use a condom every time after travel to an area with risk of Zika, even if there are no symptoms of a Zika infection. Even without a pregnant partner, a man who has been in an area with the Zika virus should consider abstaining from sex or using condoms for at least 6 months after returning.
Additional helpful information can be found on the CDC's website.