Zika is working its way all around the United States. It’s spreading across Florida, and is before long expected to reach Texas, Louisiana and other Southern states and finally make it’s way to the eastern and western coast.
The virus spreads from a type of mosquito. But while mosquitoes are a key menace when it comes to Zika there is way more to focus on. We also need to pay attention to sex: If we are going to stop the spread of this disease, we are going to need better access to Zika testing for anyone who is sexually active in any and all Zika zones.
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends testing for pregnant women at risk of Zika transmission, people who exhibit symptoms of being infected with Zika, and people who have had sex with a partner who might have been exposed to the virus.
The CDC now states that men, women who are not pregnant and children who are not symptomatic do not need to be tested. That, however, is not the best way to manage Zika.
Zika testing isn’t being offered as an essential preventive health service to every American right now. Nor should it be, at least not yet. It would be a waste of medical resources to include a Zika test with every sexually transmitted disease panel, especially for people outside areas of active transmission.
Men and Zika. Zika isn’t the only virus that can be found in semen for months after infection. We known that men can transmit HIV and HPV to a male or female partner.
If men can be carriers of Zika, why aren’t they being recommended for testing in active Zika zones, too? Despite the fact that Zika is a public health crisis for the general population, pregnant women and their doctors are being asked to bear the burden of preventing its spread. And if we are going to prevent the outbreak from spreading further, shouldn’t testing and counseling be offered to anyone who might be at risk as part of a panel of tests for sexually transmitted infections?
Another issue with testing is that not all brands of tests are created equal, which makes it difficult for patients to know if they even have Zika. While some use a well-established technique, the same one used for a rapid HIV test, some on the EUA list use newer technologies. For those tests, only labs with the equipment manufactured by the company marketing the test can get accurate results. So, without a standard test being offered in Zika zones, combined with the fact that we know a person with Zika is able to infect another person for at least six months, we are creating a perfect storm for the spread to continue.