Wait time for Zika test results worries pregnant women

Many expectant mothers look for other options due to backlog in Zika testing

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A backlog in Zika testing continues to worry expectant mothers and families across Florida. 

So many pregnant women are taking advantage of the free Zika testing that the Florida Department of Health labs cannot keep up, leaving hundreds of women and doctors waiting for results. 

"We don't really have any treatment and that's the really difficult situation. It's always better to know earlier," said Dr. Vandana Bhide, an internist and pediatrician at Mayo Clinic. "I think it's hard when we don't even know how long, but we know it's a lot longer than we like."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent seven people to help with testing and lab functions, but Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that's not enough. 

A pregnant woman in Miami, who works as a health reporter for an NPR station near the Wynwood area, said she had to wait more than a month for results after she took a Zika test through the state health department.

A two-week turnaround has turned into a month, and some mothers-to-be have had to wait even longer. State health department officials said the number of tests, and the time it takes to get definitive answers, are also contributing to the holdup. 

The three state-runs labs, one of which is located in Jacksonville, are able to conduct about 150 tests for active Zika and 130 antibodies daily. 

The state Department of Health receives about 225 specimens each day. 

"(We want to know) if there's something we can do, like increase personnel so that the testing can continue to be done at the state DOH," Bhide said. "Whether it's finding tests that have a shorter turnaround period or getting additional testing centers or private laboratories so we can get those results to the pregnant women."

Some women have opted to pay for quicker results by getting a Zika test at a private lab, which can cost up to $800. 

Locally, Vista Clinical Diagnostics offers results in just 6 hours for $99. 

"It adds another element of stress and confusion. And we try to give as much information available about Zika, but there's a lot of unknowns about Zika," Bhide said. 

Bhide said only a small percentage of babies born with the Zika virus suffer birth defects related to the virus. But she said it's still important for mothers to know as soon as possible so they can plan the rest of their pregnancies.