Should You Be Tested for Zika? See the New CDC Guidelines for Pregnant Women

As Zika risk goes down, the guidelines are changing.
ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Aug 2017
Woman having blood drawn
Photo: iStock

If you haven’t heard about Zika in a while, there’s a promising reason why: the prevalence of the virus in the United States is going down. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is adjusting guidelines for testing. But—as always—things get a little tricky for pregnant women.

The CDC update includes several recommendations for pregnant women depending on where they live (or where they have traveled) and whether or not they’re symptomatic. But Deborah Mulligan, MD, FAAP, FACEP, Chief Medical Affairs Officer of MDLIVE, explains that all pregnant women need an initial screening.

“The CDC wants all pregnant women in the US and territories assessed for testing of any kind of infectious disease at the first OB visit,” Mulligan tells The Bump. “Your physician will ask about where you’ve traveled and where you live. If exposure is likely, then you should be tested.”

Mulligan adds that symptoms of Zika include fever, joint pain, red eyes, rash, nausea and vomiting. And once you start exhibiting symptoms, it’s never too soon to talk to your doctor about a Zika test.

There are different kinds of Zika tests, and, should you need one, your doctor can advise which is right for you. Mulligan explains that for symptomatic pregnant women, something called an IgM test (immunoglobulin M test) is performed concurrently with a NAT (Nucleic Acid Test). The first is a blood test and the second uses both blood serum and urine samples.

When You Should Get Tested

  • If you’re pregnant, are showing Zika symptoms and have recent possible Zika exposure, you should be tested within 12 weeks of the onset of symptoms.
  • If you’re pregnant, are not showing Zika symptoms but have ongoing possible exposure, NAT testing should be offered to you three times during pregnancy.
  • If you’re pregnant, have recent possible Zika exposure and your ultrasound is indicative of the virus, you should be tested.

When You Don’t Need To Get Tested

  • If you’re pregnant and have been potentially exposed to Zika because of travel or sex, you don’t need testing if you aren’t showing symptoms and you aren’t regularly exposed to the virus. (However, testing can be considered.)

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