Zika Virus Test
Returning to London or the UK from Central or South America and concerned about having contracted the Zika virus?
The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito – found in tropical climates, such as Central and South America and Africa. The Zika outbreak is currently mainly in the Americas, with countries such as Brazil being most affected.
We recommend that you read all the information below on testing before booking an appointment, but if you have any questions, please call or email us and we will be happy to help. You can also consult our infographic if you are wondering “Should I get tested for Zika?“
It is thought that around 80% of Zika infections pass unnoticed, with no clear symptoms.
In the 20% of symptomatic cases, these symptoms will display as a mild illness, and may include:
- Muscle weakness
- Rash and itching
- Joint pain
Is there a treatment for Zika virus?
While there is no treatment for Zika, the symptoms usually subside within 2-7 days as the body is normally able to fight the virus itself. The NHS recommends drinking plenty of water and taking paracetamol to relieve Zika symptoms. Any patient with mild to severe symptoms after travel are advised to visit A&E or a Hospital for Tropical diseases. This will help eliminate the possibility of any other harmful tropical diseases (such as malaria, dengue or yellow fever) that travelers may have also come into contact with.
The biggest concern with regard to the Zika virus, is the potential effect on unborn babies – with a strong link between Zika-affected expectant mothers, and babies born with the severe birth defect Microcephaly.
Advice for travellers
Pregnant women are advised to avoid all travel to Zika-affected area. Women actively trying to conceive are also recommended not to travel to high-risk areas.
For those who still intend to travel, it’s worth taking extra precautions:
- Wear long-sleeves
- Use strong mosquito repellent (50% DEET) and SPF 30-50
- Avoid insect bites
- Avoid breeding sites for mosquitoes, such as stagnant water
After visiting a Zika-affected country, it’s advised to take extra contraceptive measures throughout the trip for several weeks after:
- If symptomatic, or if tested positive, wait 6 months before trying to conceive
- If asymptomatic, wait 8 weeks before trying to conceive
- If symptomatic, or if tested positive, use condoms for at least 6 months from the onset of symptoms.
- If asymptomatic, use condoms for at least 6 months from the possible exposure date.
Although these recommendations are on the side of caution, this is due to the current lack of evidence on the Zika virus, and the severe effect on unborn babies.
Zika Testing – Zika Screening
If you are worried about having possibly contracted the Zika virus, we provide two different tests for the virus.
The first is a Zika virus PCR test:
- Only appropriate for symptomatic patients, or within 14 days of Zika-exposure. This test works by look for Zika Virus genetic material. The test window is difficult to predict in asymptomatic patients and therefore we do not recommend the test in asymptomatic patients.
- The Zika PCR test must be performed on both a urine and blood sample – known as a paired sample. Both the blood test and a urine test can be tested up to 14 days’ after onset of symptoms.
- The CDC recommends running this test twice, on both urine and blood samples, for most reliable results. “Urine should always be collected with a patient-matched serum specimen.”
- Any patients undergoing Zika PCR testing must then return for antibodies testing after 21-days post-exposure, to be sure of the result.
- Costs: £689.40 for paired urine and serum blood samples ( £344.70 for urine sample and £344.70 for blood sample)
Results are usually received within 7-14 working days.
The second is a Zika-virus antibodies test (ZKAB):
- Runs on blood sample only
- Test must be done at least 21 days post-exposure. The Zika virus has an incubation period of 3-14 day. It then takes 7 days for production of sufficient antibodies for detection.
- Test can be performed 3 weeks post-Zika exposure.
- Costs: £150
Results are usually received within 7-10 working days.
Both are able to give a strong indication as to whether or not a patient has come into contact with the Zika virus, but not entirely confirm.
Any asymptomatic patients wishing to undergo the PCR test are also advised to undergo antibody testing at a later date, to confirm.
Please note, the cost of each test does not include the price of the Private GP consultation required to discuss the different options, and take the sample necessary for testing. A 15-minute GP appointment costs from £89, and includes any necessary follow-ups such as the interpretation and explanation of results, usually by email or phone.
For more information on the Zika virus, take a look at these articles:
- World Health Organization – Zika Virus
- WebMD – Zika virus: what you should do
- Mayo Clinic – Zika virus – Symptoms and Causes