NEW YORK – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today issued a Health Alert Notice with updated guidance for healthcare professionals to interpret Zika test results for women who live in, or frequently travel (daily or weekly) to areas with a CDC Zika travel notice.
This change is being made because CDC’s Zika testing guidance for pregnant women relies, in part, on a test [Zika virus Immunoglobulin M (IgM) ELISA] to detect Zika antibodies or proteins that the body makes to fight Zika infections. New data suggest that Zika virus infection, similar to some other flavivirus infections, may result in Zika antibodies staying in the body for months after infection for some individuals. As a result, results of these tests may not be able to determine whether women were infected before or after they became pregnant.
Specifically, CDC recommends the following guidance for healthcare professionals evaluating women without symptoms who had potential Zika exposure—particularly women who live in or frequently travel (daily or weekly) to areas with CDC Zika travel notices. Use of these tests may be helpful, but may not always be conclusive, in distinguishing how recent the infection is.
“Our guidance today is part of our continued effort to share data for public health action as quickly as possible,” said Henry Walke, M.D., incident manager of the agency’s Zika response efforts. “As we learn more about the limitations of antibody testing, we continue to update our guidance to ensure that healthcare professionals have the latest information for counseling patients who are infected with Zika during pregnancy.”
For women planning to become pregnant who might have been exposed to Zika previously, healthcare professionals can consider testing for Zika antibodies before pregnancy. Antibody test results before pregnancy should not be used to determine if it is safe for a woman to become pregnant. Rather, testing before pregnancy can help determine whether a woman becomes infected during pregnancy. For example, if a woman has a negative result before pregnancy and a positive result when she is tested during pregnancy, it is more likely that the woman experienced an infection during pregnancy.
The CDC guidance also notes that test results represent a single point in time. Women who live in areas with a CDC Zika travel notice and who have never been infected with Zika virus are at continued risk of getting Zika.
To prevent Zika, CDC recommends the following steps:
For information on geographic areas with Zika transmission, visit Areas with Risk of Zika. For the most current information about Zika virus, visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika/. Also, to see a searchable database of specialists available in several states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, visit http://www.zikacareconnect.org/.
Photo by NIAID via Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Press Release by the CDC.
Press Release Made Available by the CDC.