Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott ordered health officials Wednesday to offer pregnant women free testing for the Zika virus.
County health departments must provide free testing, and lab services have to process test results quickly. The free tests will only be available at county health departments and won’t be given to private physicians.
“The biggest challenge I’m having is many, many, many patients who are pregnant want to be tested … right now it just feels like we are restricting access to the tests. Certainly patients have felt frustrated,” Dr. Christine Curry, an OBGYN at the University of Miami Health System, told Medical Express.
Scott stated that 2,400 pregnant women have already been tested statewide for the Zika virus.
Federal and state health officials already directed pregnant women to avoid parts of Miami that were heavily struck by the virus. Florida health officials stated Monday that 14 patients in Miami were reportedly infected with Zika in early July. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stopped accepting blood donations from the Miami-area in late July until donors are screened for the virus.
Zika virus infections in pregnant women are directly linked to fetal deaths and devastating birth defects such as microcephaly, when a baby is born with an abnormally small head, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Laboratory studies also confirmed the presence of Zika virus in the blood, tissue, brains and amniotic fluid of fetuses and babies diagnosed with microcephaly.
There have now been 12 confirmed cases of babies born with Zika-related microcephaly in America, and more than 400 pregnant women in the continental U.S. have evidence of Zika infection. Some babies with no immediate signs of problems have also been born in the U.S. to Zika-infected mothers.
The virus is spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which also spreads several other dangerous tropical diseases. Mosquitoes kill more people than other humans and are the most deadly insects on the planet.
There are currently 1,658 cases of Zika virus confirmed in the continental U.S., as well as another 4,729 in American territories, according to the CDC’s most recent update published in late July. These cases include 15 believed to be the result of sexual transmission, one that was the result of laboratory exposure, as well as the four new local cases. The vast majority of the cases were from people who traveled to a Zika-prone country, such as Brazil.
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