More widespread testing for Zika virus is now available, as the FDA recently issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for a Qualitative Real-Time RT-PCR test.1 Unfortunately, treatment options are limited.

The test will detect Zika virus RNA in blood samples. The test should only be used for individuals meeting CDC Zika virus clinical criteria (e.g., clinical signs and symptoms associated with infection) and/or CDC Zika virus epidemiological criteria (e.g., history of residence in or travel to a geographic region with active Zika transmission) by qualified laboratories, the FDA emphasized.

Transmission occurring in 43 countries

The EUA does not indicate formal FDA approval indefinitely, and can expire or be terminated or revoked by the Department of Health and Human Services. According to a fact sheet posted by the FDA, Zika transmission is occurring in 35 countries and territories in the Americas, seven countries and territories in Oceania/Pacific Islands, and one country in Africa.

“Public health officials have determined that Zika virus poses a potential public health emergency,” according to the FDA.

If Zika virus infection is suspected based on current clinical and epidemiological criteria, the RT-PCR test may be ordered. As chikungunya and dengue infection can have early symptoms resembling those of Zika infection — and coinfection with these viruses is possible — testing for those viruses should be considered as well.

Take supportive measures for Zika infection

Zika virus RNA is typically detectable in serum for approximately seven days following onset of symptoms. Contact your state or local health department to facilitate testing, the FDA advised.

With no vaccine nor established treatment, the following recommended measures by public health officials for those infected with Zika virus are primarily supportive:

  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Take medicine such as acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain.
  • Avoid taking aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs because of rare cases of bleeding occurring with flaviviruses and these medications.
  • Talk to a healthcare provider before taking any medications, including prescriptions, for other medical conditions.
  • To help prevent others from getting sick, avoid mosquito bites during the first week of infection. Wearing clothing that covers skin and using insect repellents can help prevent mosquito bites.
  • To help prevent transmission to partners via sexual contact, abstain from sexual activity or use condoms during sexual activity during and following infection.2

REFERENCES

  1. FDA. Fact Sheet for Health Care Providers: Interpreting Zika Virus RNA Qualitative Real-Time RT-PCR Test Results. April 28, 2016: http://1.usa.gov/24iK3bQ.
  2. OSHA, NIOSH. Fact Sheet: Interim Guidance for Protecting Workers from Occupational Exposure to Zika Virus. April 2016: http://1.usa.gov/1TvbTJu.