What Are We Doing to Get Ready for Zika in the United States? Medscape Asks and the CDC Answers

CDC Division of Vector-Borne Diseases; CDC Division of Congenital Developmental Disorders

May 04, 2016

Editorial Collaboration

Medscape &

Medscape: Does HIPAA pose obstacles to outreach efforts to prevent Zika infection in populations at risk, such as women of reproductive age?

Communities can reach out to populations at risk, particularly pregnant women, in many ways that would not involve HIPAA regulations. Some outreach activities that communities and organizations can do include:

  • Encouraging pharmacies and retailers to have Zika information available near pregnancy-related products;

  • Communicating with organizations that provide support or networking for pregnant women; these organizations can pass information on to their clients without sharing their client information;

  • Working with community and religious organizations that can share information with pregnant members; and

  • Sharing information with nonprofit and private organizations. The leaders of these organizations can then share information with their members and employees, some of whom may be pregnant or considering pregnancy.

Medscape: Congress has not yet approved emergency funding for Zika. Are states expected to fund their own public health initiatives? Isn't a timely initiative vital, given the anticipated increase in the mosquito population as temperatures rise? How will the lack of funding affect emergency Zika plans?

We are continuing to pursue supplemental resources to support the US response to Zika. To support our most critical needs, CDC has drawn upon existing resources to fund crucial Zika activities. The repurposed funds are not enough to support a comprehensive Zika response and only temporarily address what is needed until Congress acts on the Administration's emergency supplemental request. Without the full amount of requested emergency supplemental funding, many activities that need to start now may have to be delayed or stopped within months.

Medscape: What is the status of the availability of lab testing for Zika virus in the United States? Can private labs do Zika testing, in addition to CDC, to be sure that the country has enough capacity for timely testing and reporting of results? What is the process for private lab involvement? What do you recommend as the next steps to increase our testing capability in both the short and long term?

CDC is working to expand diagnostic testing capacity with both public and commercial partners in the United States. In the United States, none of the commercially available testing products are US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-cleared for diagnostic purposes. Until commercial options are available, Zika virus testing is performed at CDC and select state health departments. Healthcare providers should contact their state and local health departments to facilitate testing. Healthcare providers should work closely with state or local health departments to ensure that the appropriate test is ordered and interpreted correctly.

The FDA has issued Emergency Use Authorizations for two diagnostic tests for Zika virus: the CDC Zika IgM Antibody Capture Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (Zika MAC-ELISA) and the CDC Trioplex Real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay. Each of these tests is available for use by qualified laboratories in the Laboratory Response Network and laboratories certified to perform high-complexity tests in the United States. These tests are not available for use in hospitals or primary care settings.

Medscape: Is CDC receiving data on cases of Zika virus infection and Zika-related microcephaly/birth defects in the United States? How are the data being used? How should healthcare providers report these cases?

CDC concluded, after careful review of existing evidence, that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. Scientists are studying the full range of other health problems that may be caused by Zika virus infection during pregnancy.

Zika virus infection is a nationally notifiable condition. Healthcare providers should report suspected Zika cases to their state, local, or territorial health departments according to the laws or regulations for reportable diseases in their jurisdictions. To understand more about Zika virus infection, CDC has also established the US Zika Pregnancy Registry and is collaborating with state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments to collect more comprehensive information about Zika virus infection during pregnancy and congenital Zika virus infection. For questions about the registry, clinicians can email or call 770-488-7100.