What is a Zika virus test?
Zika is a viral infection usually spread by mosquitos. It can also spread through sex with an infected person or from a pregnant woman to her baby. A Zika virus test looks for signs of the infection in blood or urine.
Mosquitos that carry the Zika virus are most common in areas of the world with tropical climates. These include islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific, and parts of Africa, Central America, South America, and Mexico. Mosquitos carrying the Zika virus have also been found in parts of the United States, including South Florida.
Most people infected with Zika have no symptoms or mild symptoms that last a few days to a week. But a Zika infection can cause serious complications if you are pregnant. A Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect called microcephaly. Microcephaly can severely affect the development of a baby’s brain. Zika infections during pregnancy have also been linked to an increased risk of other birth defects, miscarriage, and stillbirth.
In rare cases, children and adults infected with Zika may get a disease called Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). GBS is a disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack part of the nervous system. GBS is serious, but treatable. If you get GBS, you will probably recover within a few weeks.
Other names: Zika Antibody Test, Zika RT-PCR Test , Zika test
What is it used for?
A Zika virus test is used to find out if you have a Zika infection. It is mostly used on pregnant women who have recently traveled to an area where there is a risk of Zika infection.
Why do I need a Zika virus test?
You may need a Zika virus test if you are pregnant and have recently traveled to an area where there is a risk of Zika infection. You may also need a Zika test if you are pregnant and have had sex with a partner who traveled to one of these areas.
A Zika test might be ordered if you have symptoms of Zika. Most people with Zika don’t have symptoms, but when there are symptoms, they often include:
What happens during a Zika virus test?
A Zika virus test is usually a blood test or a urine test.
If you are getting a Zika blood test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
If you are getting a Zika test in urine, ask your health care provider for instructions on how to provide your sample.
If you are pregnant and your prenatal ultrasound shows the possibility of microcephaly, your health care provider may recommend a procedure called amniocentesis to check for Zika. Amniocentesis is a test that looks at the fluid that surrounds an unborn baby (amniotic fluid). For this test, your provider will insert a special hollow needle into your belly and withdraw a small sample of fluid for testing.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?
You don’t any special preparations for a Zika virus test.
Are there any risks to the test?
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
There are no known risks to a urine test.
Amniocentesis may cause some cramping or pain in your belly. There is a small chance the procedure will cause a miscarriage. Talk to your health care provider about the benefits and risks of this test.
What do the results mean?
A positive Zika test result probably means you have a Zika infection. A negative result can mean you aren’t infected or you were tested too soon for the virus to show up in testing. If you think you were exposed to the virus, talk to your health care provider about when or if you need to be retested.
If you are diagnosed with Zika and are pregnant, you can start to prepare for your baby’s possible health problems before he or she is born. While not all babies exposed to Zika have birth defects or any health problems, many children born with Zika have long-lasting special needs. Talk to your health care provider about how to get support and health care services should you need them. Early intervention may make a difference in your child’s health and quality of life.
If you are diagnosed with Zika and are not pregnant, but would like become pregnant in the future, talk to your health care provider. Currently, there is no evidence of Zika-related pregnancy complications in women who have fully recovered from Zika. Your provider can tell you how long you should wait before trying to have a baby and if you need to retested.
Is there anything else I need to know about a Zika virus test?
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you should take steps to reduce your risk of getting a Zika infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that pregnant women avoid traveling in areas that may put you at risk for Zika infection. If you can’t avoid travel or if you live in one of these areas, you should:
- Apply an insect repellent containing DEET on your skin and clothing. DEET is safe and effective for pregnant women.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants
- Use screens on windows and doors
- Sleep under a mosquito net