The test will allow doctors to determine in a single test whether an individual is currently infected with Zika, chikungunya or dengue. Currently, three tests are required.
The CDC said it will distribute the test to facilities in the Laboratory Response Network, a network of domestic and international laboratories that respond to public health emergencies. The test, called the Trioplex Real-time RT-PCR Assay, will not be available in hospitals or other primary care settings.
The Zika virus, which is transmitted primarily by mosquitoes, has been spreading rapidly throughout the Americas. In most cases, it causes only mild symptoms at worst. But pregnant women are vulnerable because the virus is strongly suspected of causing birth defects, including microcephaly, which is characterized by an abnormally small head and brain damage.
According to the CDC’s latest tally, at least 258 Americans have contracted Zika while traveling abroad. Eighteen of those cases have been diagnosed in pregnant women.