A Washington teen diagnosed with the Zika virus has highlighted how those who want to get tested may face long waits to get results.
Olivia Evans, 17, of SeaTac, had to wait four weeks to get her blood tested for the virus, her mother, Marla Evans, told ABC News today. The teen and her parents traveled to Haiti and started to exhibit symptoms associated with the Zika virus a week later.
"Broke out into a rash over her whole body," Marla Evans said of her daughter's illness. "We went right to the doctor."
Olivia also had a headache and "flu-like symptoms," her mother said.
After Olivia became ill, Marla Evans also developed flu-like symptoms, she said. They went to their family doctor and had blood drawn to be tested for the virus by the county health department.
However, the family had to wait weeks to get results, Marla Evans said. The results were further delayed because Olivia's first blood sample was discarded by the King County Health Department because they said Olivia did not exhibit enough symptoms, her mother said.
After a second blood sample was taken, the teen had to wait a month to get the results of a positive Zika test, Marla Evans said, noting she is still waiting for her test results.
"Looking back now, I'm glad that we went back, saying, 'I did get more symptoms. I need to be tested again,'" Evans told ABC affiliate KOMO-TV. "If I wasn't tested I would not have known I had the Zika virus."
Marla Evans said she hopes their case will make the public more aware of Zika virus symptoms and encourage people who may be exposed to get tested. The Zika virus often causes mild symptoms, including fever, rash and conjunctivitis. Symptoms usually resolve in about a week.
"I think it’s nice to make the public aware of the what the symptoms are," she told ABC News. "I think it’s important to not panic."
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, explained to ABC News that testing for people who are pregnant is the priority for health officials due to concerns about birth defects.
"Given the fact that we have limited reagents and limited personnel at laboratories ... [local health departments] have issued guidelines to physicians about which types of patients and what sorts of specimens will be tested," Schaffner said. "The priority list is focused of course on the management of pregnancy."
There are two tests being used to test for the Zika virus. One tests for signs of the virus during an active infection, when the patient would more likely be experiencing symptoms, that test has been given to some state health departments so they can more quickly identify those who are sick. A second test can identify if a patient has been infected with Zika in the past by examining certain antibodies. The test is more complex because certain viruses such as dengue virus can lead to the creation of the same antibodies as the ones created by the Zika virus.
An official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told ABC News that pregnant patients are getting priority testing.
"Zika virus testing is performed at CDC and some state and territorial health departments," the CDC spokesman told ABC News. "Timing varies on the number of samples received."
The Washington Health Department told ABC News that it is sending all potential Zika testing to the CDC and that the department is getting 12 to 20 cases a week to be tested. Only samples that meet the criteria for testing are sent on to the CDC, a department spokeswoman said, noting that it takes about three weeks for test results to come back due in part to the volume of testing.
The World Health Organization has declared Zika a global health emergency due to its impact on fetal development. The WHO and CDC both recommend that couples who want to become pregnant wait eight weeks if either partner has been to an area with active Zika virus transmissions. If either the man or woman are diagnosed with the virus, they are advised to wait six months.
Schaffner emphasized there's no evidence that the virus can affect fetal development more than six months after infection.