Pregnant and worried about Zika? A patient’s guide to testing

Abby Joy Durr delivers the mail in Delray Beach. Photo by Bruce Bennett/The Palm Beach Post
Abby Joy Durr delivers the mail in Delray Beach. Photo by Bruce Bennett/The Palm Beach Post

For most Floridians, Zika isn’t especially scary. Most people afflicted with the mosquito-borne virus show no symptoms. And for those who suffer from a fever, rash or red eyes, the ill effects are typically mild and fleeting.

But for expectant mothers, Zika is terrifying. The virus can penetrate the placenta barrier and cause severe brain defects in the fetus. That’s why the Florida Department of Health is offering free Zika tests to pregnant women.

Here’s what you need to know:

The free test: It’s offered at Department of Health locations in Delray Beach, Lantana and West Palm Beach. Patients give urine and blood samples, which are sent to a state lab for testing.

How long it takes to get results: Patients typically wait two weeks to hear results of the state test. However, Dr. Anthony Shaya, an OB-GYN in Jupiter, said his patients have waited as long as four weeks. “We are having trouble getting results,” Shaya said. Tim O’Connor, spokesman for the Health Department’s Palm Beach County operations, said most results come in faster than that. “I’ve been told it takes about two weeks,” he said. “That’s what we’re advising our patients.”

Private testing: If convenience and a quick answer are more important to you than saving money, LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics also offer Zika tests. Patients can pay as much as $300, said Dr. Samuel Lederman, an OB-GYN in suburban Lake Worth.

How long it takes to get results: The private labs are returning results in as little as a week, Lederman said.

Should you get tested? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say pregnant women need a test only if they’ve traveled to an area of active transmission, such as Puerto Rico, Brazil, Miami Beach or the Wynwood district in Miami. “If somebody has had no exposure, I try to discourage them,” Lederman said.

What do you do if you test positive? As of Wednesday, 86 pregnant women in Florida had Zika. The virus doesn’t necessarily reach the baby, but OB-GYNs watch these fetuses closely, conducting additional ultrasounds to monitor the development of the baby’s head. “There’s not much you can do but watch,” Lederman said.


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