Houston hospitals introduce first hospital-based Zika virus test

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The country's first hospital-based rapid test for the Zika virus can be found right here in Houston. (Felipe Dana)

The country's first hospital-based rapid test for the Zika virus can be found right here in Houston.

The test was born out of a collaboration between two Texas Medical Center institutions, including Texas Children's Hospital and Houston Methodist Hospital.

The Zika direct test was developed in a matter of weeks, and is designed for rapid detection of the virus. A patient's blood, amniotic fluid, urine or spinal fluid can be used to test for the virus.

Hospital officials say results can now come back within several hours compared to the long delays previously experienced by testing in Houston and statewide public health laboratories.

"This is a significant development as health authorities are recommending all pregnant women who have traveled to a place with a Zika virus outbreak get tested," says James M. Musser, M.D., Ph.D., the chair of the Department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine at Houston Methodist Hospital.

The Zika virus is a flavivirus that has spread quickly through Latin America. Most people who contract it have mild or no symptoms, but it is suspected of causing a birth defect that results in babies born with abnormally small heads.

Zika symptoms diagnosis and treatment from the CDC


  • About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika).

  • The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week.

  • The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.

  • Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days but it can be found longer in some people.

  • Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.

  • Deaths are rare.


  • The symptoms of Zika are similar to those of dengue and chikungunya, diseases spread through the same mosquitoes that transmit Zika.

  • See your healthcare provider if you develop the symptoms described above and have visited an area where Zika is found.

  • If you have recently traveled, tell your healthcare provider when and where you traveled.

  • Your healthcare provider may order blood tests to look for Zika or other similar viruses like dengue or chikungunya.


  • No vaccine or medications are available to prevent or treat Zika infections.

Treat the symptoms:

  • Get plenty of rest

  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration

  • Take medicines, such as acetaminophen or paracetamol, to relieve fever and pain

  • Do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen. Aspirin and NSAIDs should be avoided until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of hemorrhage (bleeding). If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.

  • If you have Zika, avoid mosquito bites for the first week of your illness.

  • During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites.
Related Topics:
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