CDC Ships 62,000 Zika Tests for Pregnant Women Who May Have Been Exposed

If you're a pregnant woman who has traveled outside of the United States in the past several weeks, there's no doubt that you're concerned about the Zika virus. There's some good news, though, as the government is now shipping Zika virus tests around the country, and the Centers for Disease Control is encouraging pregnant women who may have been exposed to take it.


The Zika virus has been a major cause for concern lately in developing countries, as it's believed to be the source of numerous birth defects in infants born to women who contracted the disease.

It's predominantly spread by mosquito bites, but some cases have shown to be transmitted sexually. While it's not necessarily fatal to adults who contract it, there is a scary correlation between pregnant women who had it and who then gave birth to babies with microcephaly, a term meaning an abnormally small head size.

Microcephaly can be fatal in some cases, but almost always means major developmental delays and other serious health impairments. It happens when the developing infant's head and/or brain stops developing during gestation. It hasn't been completely proven that Zika leads to microcephaly, but the links between the two are terrifying.

More from The Stir: 6 Things Pregnant Women Need to Know About the Zika Virus

Health officials have said that they don't expect a widespread outbreak in the U.S., but they are concerned for pregnant women who have traveled to countries like Brazil, and especially Puerto Rico, where the virus has run rampant.

Since symptoms of the disease can be very mild or even nonexistent to adults, the CDC is advising women to contact their health-care professionals to take a test within two to twelve weeks of their return from countries suffering an outbreak.

At that point, the developing fetus can be monitored via ultrasound scans and checked for abnormalities. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like much can be done in those cases, but this will undoubtedly offer peace of mind to the majority of women potentially affected by Zika.

More than 62,000 tests have been shipped already, and even more are in the works. This has become a bipartisan effort in congress, with Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan saying this is "a problem we want to get ahead of."

More from The Stir: 5 Best Bug Repellents for Protecting Against Zika

Hopefully this is something that has gotten enough attention that parents who are expecting or trying to conceive will take the necessary precautions to try to prevent infection -- things like not traveling to majorly infected countries, wearing mosquito repellent, and even getting frequent prenatal checkups.

And someday, we hope in the near future, this won't even be an issue. Until then, go get the test if you're pregnant and may have been exposed. It's scary to think about, but medical professionals are there to help, and the government is providing the tests. It's worth it to get checked out.


Image via © Graham Oliver/Juice Images/Corbis

Read More >