Should You Get Tested For Zika Virus? A Flowchart

News about Zika virus — the tropical, mosquito-borne disease that may be responsible for birth defects and an autoimmune syndrome — is probably all over your Facebook feed, radio broadcast or TV screen. Or maybe you’re all set to go to that long-awaited wedding or bachelorette party in Mexico, and your mom keeps sending you newspaper clippings in an effort to get you to cancel your trip.

As paranoia builds, you may wonder: should I be worried about Zika virus, and should I get tested for Zika virus when I get back from my trip?

First, some background: Zika virus cases didn’t appear in Latin America, where it’s currently spreading, until May 2015. Then, in Oct. 2015, the Brazilian government alerted the World Health Organization to an alarming increase in infants born with microcephaly, a condition in which a fetus’ brain doesn’t develop properly in the womb and the baby is then born with an abnormally small head.

Between Oct. 2015 to Jan. 2016, almost 4,000 babies in Brazil have been born with this condition, which can cause lifelong intellectual disability, developmental delays and even death. This is a sharp increase from the years 2010 to 2014, when Brazil averaged only about 156 cases of microcephaly each year. The country also saw an uptick in cases of Guillian-Barre syndrome, a condition that causes temporary paralysis and, in rare cases, death.

Besides these possible but as-yet-unconfirmed disease links, one of the most disturbing aspects of Zika virus is that not everyone who gets it even knows they have it, and we don’t know what this means in terms of its effect on fetuses in utero.

The virus’ symptoms are mild. They include a rash, fever, joint pain and red eyes that last between two and seven days, —> Read More