What Kind of Zika Testing is Available?


Now that you’ve been bitten by a mosquito and are showing Zika-related symptoms, you’re naturally worried that you’ve been infected. What now? Can you be tested?

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Yes, you can. And if you fit the Center for Disease Control and Preventions’ (CDC’s) test criteria, then you SHOULD be tested. The CDC says if you’re showing symptoms of the Zika virus or you’re pregnant, with or without symptoms, then Zika testing is recommended if:

  • You live in or have traveled to a Zika—affected area.
  • You’ve had sex with a person who lives in or has traveled to a Zika—affected area.

How does Zika testing work?

For those who need to be tested, the Zika virus can be diagnosed through blood or urine samples.

There are different ways a person can be tested. Some tests, like the Real-Time Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (rRT-PCR) test are more common. Other tests, like the Trioplex Real-Time RT-PCR Assay test that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only authorized under an Emergency Use Authorization, are not as common.

For the most effective results, it’s widely recommended to get tested within two weeks of Zika virus symptoms first appearing. So if you match the before-mentioned criteria for getting tested, it’s important to go see your doctor sooner rather than later.

If you’ve passed that two-week window but still would like to be tested, antibody testing can still be done. However, this test comes with an increased risk of false results.

How long does it take to get Zika virus test results back?

Patience can be hard. And if you’ve ever had some kind of test done – which most likely you have – then you know waiting for the results can sometimes be the hardest part of the process.

Doctors and researchers are smart, and they’re doing a lot of groundbreaking work. And the more time they’ve had to focus on the Zika virus, the more evolved testing has become. Results wait time has now been shortened from weeks to just days. The time difference is based on whether your lab work needs to be sent to the CDC, or whether it can be sent to a local public health lab. If you live close to one of these labs, then you could be in luck.

Results wait time is also largely dependent on when you’re tested. If you’re tested during the summer months, you may have to wait longer to get your results back since arbovirus diseases – viruses caused by mosquitos – are more common during that time so more tests are being done.

For the average person, a longer wait time isn’t a big deal. That’s because the Zika virus is typically out of a person’s system in 3-7 days of becoming infected. However, if you’re pregnant and your newborn is at risk for certain neurological damage, then that possibility of a two-to-four week wait time can really become an issue.

What happens if you are diagnosed with the Zika virus?

There’s currently no vaccine or treatment available for Zika virus. If you’ve been diagnosed, the CDC advises you to get plenty of rest, drink a lot of fluids and take proper over-the-counter pain medication. Basically, you should treat this virus like you would any other one. And, as always, if you have any medical questions, please consult with your primary physician.

Staying informed is a great way to help prevent mosquito bites and Zika infection. For answers to more questions, checkout The Terminix Zika fact Guide.

Next > Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch? And Other Questions

Center For Disease Control and Prevention
Everyday Health
New York Times