Zika Testing in Pregnant Women
October 14, 2016
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) continues to follow the long-standing U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation that pregnant women who have visited countries where active Zika virus transmission is occurring should be offered testing for evidence of Zika virus infection, whether they experience symptoms or not. Although cooler temperatures have decreased mosquito activity in many parts of Texas, Zika is still spreading in tropical and sub-tropical areas, including Mexico. Frequent travel to areas with active Zika transmission increases risk of exposure to the Zika virus. DSHS is aware that many people who live and work in the large and vibrant communities along the Texas border regularly travel to Mexico, whether for work, business, shopping, education or family.
Zika Testing Recommendation
DSHS reminds health care providers to assess their pregnant patients for possible Zika virus exposure at each prenatal care visit. For asymptomatic pregnant women who have ongoing risk of exposure, CDC and DSHS recommend testing for Zika antibodies as part of routine prenatal care during the first and second trimesters. Testing is recommended for all pregnant women who travel to countries with active Zika virus transmission. Particularly for pregnant women who engage in regular, frequent travel to Mexico, DSHS provides the following guidelines:
- Pregnant women who have regular, frequent travel to Mexico, or whose sexual partner has regular, frequent travel to Mexico, are considered to be at ongoing risk of Zika exposure, and these women should be offered testing for evidence of infection with the Zika virus.
- Regular, frequent travel means weekly or more frequent travel to any location in Mexico especially during the peak mosquito season (August to October).
- The recommendation applies regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms.
This recommendation is intended to:
- Clarify recommendations already in place,
- Increase testing for pregnant women who are regular, frequent travelers, and
- Increase surveillance for Zika infection in light of the continuing spread of Zika throughout the Western Hemisphere and the recognition that border communities in Texas are among those at higher risk for the emergence of Zika infections.
Health care providers should contact their local health department or DSHS regional office if they have questions about Zika. Pregnant women, health care providers and the general public can obtain more information, including a full list of testing recommendations at www.TexasZika.org.
Capacity for Zika testing has increased, as it is no longer limited to CDC or state public health laboratories. Under Emergency Use Authorizations issued by the Food and Drug Administration, there are now a number of commercial laboratories that offer molecular assays for detection of Zika virus RNA, and some are also offering serology for Zika IgM.
DSHS continues to recommend that health care providers consult with their local health department or DSHS Regional Office to facilitate appropriate test selection and submission of specimens.
For More Information
Texas-specific information and links to CDC resources: TexasZika.org